Annual NYC Bike Counts Compared to Popular Locations

Lab Reports, Maps, Visualization


This intractable map was created in order to show the places in New York City with the highest used city bikes, in relation to NYC’s most popular destinations. My initials hopes and expectations were for the locations to be the same, or at least intersect. I was mainly interested to see if the bikes were being used mostly by locals, who might not go to these locations as often, or tourists, who are frequently there for these locations. I was curious to see specifically Manhattan as it is the largest tourist area, and the data was recorded from 2005 to 2015. 


This map used three datasets from the NYC Department of Planning and used Carto to create the maps. 

Process and Discussion

The first thing I did for this project was search for usable datasets. The NYC Department of Planning had a large selection, but I wanted something light hearted and different. I frequently find myself walking past city bikes and wondering who is using them, tourists or locals, so I was happy to find the data set on bikes. From there I searched datasets for location based metadata that could relate to tourist attractions. 

Before loading the data into Carto, I searched this website to find visual inspiration, and came across Erin Murphy’s project using Carto that visualized firework complaints in Brooklyn. The visual is animated and very cool, but I really liked the way it darkened the map and relied on colors for the data points. 

Erin Murphy’s Map

Once my data was uploaded to Carto through a XML upload (json didn’t work,) I analyzed the bike data using latitude and longitude provided in the dataset. I then styled the data points to display as a heat map, green symbolized lesser users, and red more. I added a legend to display the color change as well. I then layered the popular spots datasheet into the map and analyzed those points using latitude and longitude as well. I wanted the points to be a different color because of overlap and chose blue, then added labels for the points. Finally I added widgets so that viewers could interact with the map and look at on-street and off-street bikes as well as focus on the Manhattan borough. Then I filtered the map to black to make the heat map really stand out.


I am very happy with the way that this map came out. I think it’s an interesting visual, but it is much smaller than I imagined. I would have thought there were a lot more city bike points in Manhattan. What the visual does show is a mixed result for my earlier question and hypothesis. Looking at the map, I believe it is inconclusive whether more tourists or locals are using these bikes. For one, the bike usage seems to focus closer to Madison Square and Union Square. I would have thought there would be more bikers closer to Central Park where there seem to be few. There also seem to be several bike points that aren’t close to any significant location points on the map, which may indicate more locals are using them. 

Carto was very simple to use, and it had a lot of really cool features. If I were to take the project further I would like to add a dataset that indicated the neighborhoods in Manhattan and use another widget. That way someone could compare the bike data points between major NYC locations and neighborhoods to further test my hypothesis.