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Were you too lazy to bike to work today, or can you just blame the weather?

January 14, 2014

Bikeshare programs have gained popularity in several cities in the U.S. and across the world.

But if you live in NYC, Boston, Chicago, DC, or really anywhere that features actual seasons, you know that weather (cold, rain/snow, cloud cover, high winds, or whatever excuse your lazy lizard brain came up with this morning) can blot out months of potential biking days (especially for John in marketing, who keeps ridin' dirty even when it's 72 degrees and sunny).

How Does Weather Affect Usage of Bikesharing?

Lazy excuses for driving or taking the subway into work aside, how much do weather and other factors (like day of the week) influence people's usage of bikeshare programs?

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A well-annotated statistical analysis of the factors that influence Citi Bike usage by marketer and designer Joe Jansen digs into the data from New York City's Citi Bike bikeshare program to answer that question, producing the interactive chart shown above.

Summary of Factors Impacting Citi Bike Usage in NYC

The analysis examined several factors to see which, if any, had a positive or negative correlation with daily miles traveled by bikers in the program:

  • Temperature: most correlated with usage, with the sweet spot for usage landing somewhere between 40 degrees on the low end and 80 degrees on the high end. Outside of that band, usage plummets.
  • Wind: smooth sailing for bikers until winds hit 17 mph, at which point people abandon all hope of biking and -- presumably -- start flying kites.
  • Cloud Cover & Rain: Limited data to work with, but there is a slight negative impact on biking. High winds, it seems, are the biggest deterrent to usage after crazy cold and crazy hot weather.
  • Day of the Week: impactful, but not nearly as much as one might expect. Weekends, predictably, see the highest median usage, but ultimately the biking happens pretty consistently across 7 days of the week.

Additional visualizations and further discussion of the factors that influence Citi Bike usage are available for each data point in the original post. And for more awesome statistical analysis & visualization, follow Joe on Twitter or check out his blog.

For the curious, here's a quick rundown of bikeshare programs by US city:

Bicycle Sharing Programs by City

Notable United States Bikeshare Programs by City

International Bikeshare Programs by City

Bikeshare programs have taken hold (or are planned) worldwide. Check out a frequently updated, interactive map of active & announced bikeshare programs across the globe: