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NYC Bike Share GPS Data

Each of the 10,000 bicycles in the NYC bike share system will be equipped with a GPS unit. Presumably one of the purposes is to discourage theft of the bicycles, permitting authorities to track any bicycles that leave the system. However, Noah Kazis reports for Streetsblog that NYC DOT Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Kahn has confirmed what every data wonk and bike planner out there has been hoping for: NYC plans to use some of the GPS data to inform future bike infrastructure planning, and the data will be made available to the public.

The Department of Transportation will use that data to inform their bike lane planning, commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan revealed last night.

“It’s going to be amazing to have GPS generated data for all these trips,” said Sadik-Khan. “For planning purposes, it’ll be huge.”

Right now, data on individual bike trips are very scarce. While bike-share trips aren’t representative of the larger set of bike trips, the ability to track exactly where a large set of riders bike and at what speeds could be quite valuable for bike planning.

The GPS data, which will be owned by the city and made publicly available to the extent possible, will provide even more information than exists in other cities with bike-share.

Here in Minneapolis, I don’t think any of the NiceRide bikes are equipped with GPS, but I’m sure a dataset exists that tracks bikes between stations, though I’m not sure if it’s public data. If we know the start point and end point of each trip, and each trip is less than 30 minutes long (some much less), we ought to be able to make some assumptions about routes people are using. However, having actual GPS data following each bike for every trip would be phenomenal.

2 comments to NYC Bike Share GPS Data

  • GPS works very poorly in Urban areas. Your suggestion at the bottom is a much better one than outfitting them with GPSs for this purpose.

    • @Bill – I’ve worked on projects before that have used GPS data collected by cyclists. Data accuracy has only occasionally been a problem, including in downtown MPLS. Of course, downtown MPLS isn’t Manhattan, so I guess we’ll see how it works. Hopefully the City verifies that the GPS will work well enough before they buy 10,000 of them!

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