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Blue Bikes Data Dive — Part 2

Last week we were able to dive into an amazing dataset made available by Blue Bikes, the City of Boston’s fantastic bike share program. We were able to use CHAOSSEARCH to index this data without having to move it out of my Amazon S3 account. And using the power of Kibana, I was able to quickly and easily aggregate and visualize this data all without having to resort to ingesting it into a database such as Elasticsearch. We were able to ask some questions of this data and understand more about the riders in the Blue Bikes network. Test

How Long are the Riders Riding for?

In the last post we learned where the riders are coming from and going to — but how long does it take for them to get there? Remember, there are two main rider types in the data — Customer and Subscriber. Customers are likely to be the more casual riders, tourists, or infrequent users of the service. Subscribers are the heavy users of the Blue Bikes network. Let’s compare what the average trip duration is between these two rider types.

The data, when visualized as a time series graph, isn’t very surprising. At a high level, it shows that for the last couple of years, the average trip duration for a Subscriber is about 12 minutes, where the average ride duration for a Customer is nearly an hour.

First, let’s ignore that huge outlier — we’ll come back to that in a moment. What I found most interesting is how in the first few years, the Customer rides were much shorter, until eventually, they transitioned over to be much longer than the Subscriber rides. It could be that in the early days, folks who were using the service to commute to work wanted to try it before committing to being a full Subscriber. If that was the case, then we should see a drop in the number of Customers and a rise in the number of Subscribers over that same time frame.

And after changing our aggregation in Kibana we can see both a DECREASE in the number of normal rides and an overall INCREASE in the number of Subscribers in the network. Almost exactly what we would expect to see given our previous graph.

Ok — back to that huge outlier in the average trip duration — what happened there? Let’s zoom in on and enhance this section to find out more about this trip. I’m going to zoom in to this date range and change my aggregation to look for the max trip ride on a shorter interval, such as minute versus day.

Zooming in, we find our outlier — that is a Blue Bike trip that has a duration of nearly 1 year!

Obviously, someone didn’t actually take a year-long ride with their Blue Bike. More likely was this bike didn’t get locked back in the docking station correctly, and someone took an unpaid stroll around the city.

Looking at the start and end stations — they are about one mile apart. Clearly bike number 1053 has seen some stuff. Let’s see if we can find out where it went just before and after its nearly year-long trip around Boston.

The Life of Bike 1053

Bike 1053 started its life on the mean streets of Boston on June 10th, 2015 in the Davis Square area of Somerville. The first time this poor bike disappeared from the network was December of 2015. But it re-joined the herd in the March timeframe. This indicates that it was probably removed from the network for the winter. We can also see that the few trips immediately before and after its removal was a more normal time of 5-10 minutes.

But let’s dive into the next disappearance.

This one is even MORE interesting than the last. Going back through the last 10 rides prior show all normal 10-20 min long trips, until the fateful 347-day trip. Was the bike never properly attached to the station, and thus taken by someone for a free bit of transportation? Did a Blue Bikes employee locate the bike abandoned on a sidewalk and simply plug it back into the network?

Let’s be real here — Boston is not known for treating bike shares particularly well.

One can only wonder at the delights and adventures that bike 1053 experienced with its trip through the city. But no matter what happened during that time, the bike re-entered normal circulation and lived a happy life. This brave Blue Bike continued on for another year, eventually taking its last two trips on May 7th, reaching its final resting place at the Museum of Science. A fitting end to a bike who has probably seen both the best and worst of Boston.


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About the Author, Pete Cheslock

Pete Cheslock was the VP of Product for ChaosSearch, where he was brought on as one of the founding executives. In his role, Pete helped to define the go-to-market strategy and refine product direction for the initial ChaosSearch launch. To see what Pete’s up to now, connect with him on LinkedIn. More posts by Pete Cheslock