Oliver O’Brien‘s excellent public bike data maps and a sea of complaints out there show that redistribution of bikes is a struggle none of the schemes currently in operation has managed to address satisfactorily. A brief flick-through the city stats at OoB suggests that Barcelona’s may be particularly bad, with roughly a 30% distribution imbalance (no of bikes needing transfer to equalise % at stations) over the past 24 hours. (Click individual stations to see the desperate situation many users face over that period.) A post by Jon Froehlich with Joachim Neumann and Nuria Oliver quotes research suggesting this is a major evil:
One of our motivations to explore prediction was the fact that 66% respondents to an online survey about Bicing stated that they had difficulty finding a free parking slot when trying to drop off a bicycle. This is a major impediment to Barcelona residents adopting Bicing as a primary form of transportation as searching for a station with a free parking spot takes time. Indeed, 50% of respondents avoid Bicing when they are traveling to a place where they must be on time.
As was noted the other day, one of the redistribution problems Barcelona faces is that riders prefer downhill, and this is exacerbated by the fact that downhill is where the beach, the shopping, the jobs, and the bars are, from which one may incapable of returning under one’s own steam. Scott van Etten says that
based on the city government’s numbers, few Bicing members are actually switching their car for a bicycle â€“ in most cases they would of been just taking other forms of public transportation or walking, which means negligible carbon savings. Felix Salmon has written up a good post on this, with a shoot-from-the-hip estimate that a bike program in NYC would decrease car trips 30%. In Barcelona, however, this estimate is much lower, with some estimating it is less than 10%. And the reshuffling of bikes isn’t exactly CO2 free â€“ it is an endeavor that requires 10 trucks on the road at any given time.
Truck servicing of this structural inequality of use could certainly be addressed by competent data management (notably lacking, as I have discovered) combined with simple forecasting tools, but better truck-based redistribution creates more emissions without any guarantee that increased costs would lead to increased revenues.
An alternative redistribution model would micro-price journeys based on the relative desirability of start and end stations. You could throw a whole bunch of factors into the pot which would simply confuse users, but a simple start could be made by considering vertical displacement, of which cyclists are pretty well aware: for each journey you earn or pay a small, sliding sum depending on whether your net displacement is up or down. For example, if you apply a simple €0.001/m tariff, you would pay €0.08 to cycle to the beach from Gracia (it’s about 80m above sea-level) and recuperate that €0.08 if you cycle back.
I have glorious visions of unemployed Kenyans accumulating a fortune cycling up Tibidabo (512m) and running down to start over, but that’s probably because I haven’t had my lunchtime aperitif.
That’s such a sensational idea that you are simply dying to
- Three user strategies in response to Bicing’s failure to devise an adequate redistribution model
Observed today: When all the stations in an area are full (often the case in the port/beach district), leave your bike
- Two serious IT/system problems at Bicing
They screw up, you pay.
- World semen survey
There was a big discussion at choir last night about the frightful quality of semen in Barcelona. That’s not an infrequent
- “Let the arseholes die of thirst”
The mayor of Agón, Aragón, “sick of extreme nationalism”, on the transfer of water from the Ebro to Barcelona. The underlying
- “Let’s roll!” in Spanish
“¡Dale al asno!” ruled out in the first round.