Can you tell what these two data visualisations represent?

Click either image to load an interactive version of the visualisation.

Even without an underlying basemap certain well-known features such as rivers and bridges soon become apparent. Look closely and you might recognise some familiar shapes of two of the world’s major cities, London and New York.

In our visualisations here, we show the flow from bicycle docking points on the same weekend in August 2014, for London and New York City. Both cities’ schemes expose open data feeds, allowing anyone to consume, interpret and visualise them. For New York City we have used the Citi Bike feed and for London, the TFL feed. To create the networks we have used the vis.js libraries, which is a fantastic resource to quickly load and dynamically visualise data in an interactive and engaging way.

The colour scheme is simply the area in which the docking station is located (London has these categorised in the feed itself and we’ve joined to the Zillow Neighbourhood Boundaries data to do the same for New York City) . The connecting lines are sized according to volume of rentals between those docks, with the colour being inherited from the ‘from’ dock. Clicking on one of the docks in the interactive version highlights the docks joined by first and second degrees of separation, providing an additional method to visually explore the data.

These visualisations show some insights that may not be so immediately accessible with more traditional methods. If you look at the London image you will see routes around Hyde Park (obviously a very popular weekend cycling location), as the thicker lines between the docking stations around the perimeter show. By clicking around the network we can also start to appreciate how the docks interact with each other and some of the more unique rides people undertake.

Also in both cities, not only are their rivers (the Thames and Hudson) apparent from their absence of docking stations, but so are the primary crossing points of these for cyclists, notably the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

Whilst these particular insights might equally be represented in a standard map or even in tabular form, remember, the decision-maker or planner is often not the analyst, so a presentation in this form may allow for much faster and simpler decisions to be taken than if they were using more traditional visualisations. The point is, try and think what the best method of visualisation is depending on the questions you are trying to ask and the audience you are trying to reach.

So if you want the “best of times” and not the “worst of times” in your trails*…..don’t underestimate the power of visualising data in more innovative ways.

* and we apologise for the terrible puns…please forgive us Dickens.

transport, opendata, london, new york / by