Where do the Nice Riders go?

Nice Ride released their 2011 ridership data in January, and I’ve been itching to map it ever since. Flows (don’t call them fluxes) are a particularly interesting way to visualize the ridership over different route segments.

I used ArcGIS with Network Analyst on a heavily modified Open Streets Map metro shapefile to generate routes between the start and ending station of each Nice Ride rental. The Open Streets map file allowed me to include off-street trails (very important in Minneapolis), which weren’t included in my previous attempts. I set Network Analyst to prefer off-street trails, bike lanes and regular roads (in that order).

Other than being pretty, you can draw a few interesting conclusions from the flows:

  • The most traversed segment, with over 16,000 trips, was the off-street trail through the Hennepin-Lyndale bottleneck (although likely some of this traffic went to the Cedar Lake Trail in real life). In my opinion, this is a horrible segment for bikes and peds and if we’re trying to attract visitors back to Minneapolis, we should do something about it.
  • Other heavily-traveled areas are the Mississippi River bridges, downtown streets, and Uptown.
  • Men and women take similar routes. I mapped both, but the flows looked very similar.
  • People are using Nice Ride even in the middle of the night. They are sticking even more closely to the southwest-to-northeast spine common during the day.
  • 30-day and Annual subscribers are getting into the neighborhoods more than casual subscribers (single day), pointing to the obvious conclusion that they are full-time residents who are using Nice Ride to go to and from homes more often.
  • Since Saint Paul only had a partial year of service, it’s hard to draw many conclusions yet.

What else do you see?

Cross-posted at netdensity.net

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8 Responses to Where do the Nice Riders go?

  1. Mike Hicks March 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Cool. Hmm, some of the private service roads between the UMN campus and the Stone Arch Bridge got included in the routings — but those relatively thick lines show that there's a big demand for travel along that route (currently illegal, though lots of people try it). I sure wish those were official bike routes, but it's not going to happen for a while. (The route from the #9 bridge eastward to the UMN transitway is turning into a bike route soon, on the UMN's own service road on the south side of the trench rather than the BNSF service road in the middle. That didn't see many Nice Ride trips, but there aren't many stations east of there worth going to.)

    Also, I think this proves pretty well that stations that are close together generate a lot more trips than ones that are far apart. I feel that the Nice Ride folks have been overly biased toward serving the Hennepin corridor to Uptown — despite what people may think, Uptown is not the densest part of Minneapolis.

    Of course, it's important to keep in mind that the St. Paul stations didn't start appearing until the season was half over.

    The map of trips for this coming year will be interesting to compare, since downtown St. Paul should be included (though again, the new stations there may not appear until late in the season). In future years, I hope they'll focus more on infill rather than outward expansion — at least for a while.

    • Brendon Slotterback
      Brendon March 22, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      I overlooked the restricted access roads at the U and by the Stone Arch. Next go-round I can remove them from the network.

    • Ian March 22, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      It's not necessarily the case that close stations alone create demand – the Nice Ride people may also have been smart at choosing likely paths, and so created more stations in places where there would be more demand, even if that's not quite the same thing as density. Uptown may have superior demographics even if it isn't the most dense.

      • Mike Hicks March 23, 2012 at 6:30 am #

        I suppose that's true, though having more stations close together gives some redundancy to the bike-share network — Nice Ride has been good about balancing bikes between stations, but there's always a chance you'll come across an empty rack when you want to take a bike and a full one when you want to put one back. If the next station is half a mile away, are you going to be more inclined or less inclined to use the bike system again in the future?

  2. Reuben Collins
    Reuben Collins March 22, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    This is great! It really shows where potential for demand is. Hennepin Ave south of I-94 really stands out. Curiously missing are the east and west river roads south of the U of M.

    This is exactly the type of analysis we should be doing to help plan bike routes. This analysis strongly suggests that Hennepin would be a great place for some bike infrastructure enhancements.

    Another thing I'd really like to see is if we had a way to screen out people who work downtown. How would these flows look different without them?

    • Brendon Slotterback
      Brendon March 22, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      East and West River Road are there, but very light since they weren't chosen for routing that much. In reality they may have had higher volumes, but they aren't direct routes between stations that were used frequently.

  3. Froggie March 24, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    I'm working on some meterological data for someone who's doing similar analysis for Capital Bikeshare in DC. I can do the same for you…just need to know the closure dates during the two winters.


  1. Nice Ride Season on its Way — Secrets of the City — Minneapolis + St. Paul - March 22, 2012

    […] 2012 Nice Ride season. While you wait anxiously, download this new bike tracking app, check out where Nice Riders go, or take a look at this map to find the station closest to […]

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