Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Data from Bicycle Counter on the Rock Road #Analytics #HDSDA #89

This morning I was cyclist #413 who passed the bicycle counter on the Rock Road in Booterstown at about 8:30, and I also noticed that there were a lot of other cyclists sharing the road with me. The counter was busy and I guess it is great for the health of the city that 413 cyclists had passed this point already this morning (not to mention how environmentally wonderful we are by reducing carbon emissions and making the planet a safe place to live for all).

The Rock Road counter clocks up hundreds of bicycles passing each day, and I wondered what happens to these data. Does it rest in a database deep in a server in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council offices where no one can access it? Are the data guarded like the Third Secret of Fatima? Can anyone just look it up?

It turns out that it took just a few seconds for me to find data from this (and other counters) freely available from Dubl:nked - "Sharing Data, Sharing Ideas, Connecting the Dublin Region". So I decided to take a quick look to see what can be gleaned from these data which can be downloaded in both .xlsx and .csv format. The data that I was interested in is the daily totals passing the counter labelled "Rock Road *Bus Lane Beside Park" (column K in the 2015 dataset). Data for 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 are available for review and analysis. The corresponding dates to today (first Tuesday in October) for each year show figures of 766, 862, 503, and 733 respectively.

A simple line plot (done in Excel) of the number of bicycles recorded per day in 2015 looks like as follows:

Click image to enlarge.
A clear weekly pattern emerges with most peaks being in the middle of the week (Tuesday is almost always the highest daily figure), with Sundays and Saturdays almost always being the lowest. There is a peak of 1445 bicycles passing on Thursday 2nd April - I wonder if this is an error? A quick check on the Events page of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council's website does not mention a cycle race or event on this day, and the data for all other counters in the dataset provides no clue. Other interesting dates to look at are holidays - for example, there is an unusual mid-week drop on St Patrick's Day (Tuesday 17th March, 231 bicycles), and of course on Christmas Day when 38 hardy souls went out for a ride before settling down to turkey and ham. Leaving out the 2nd April figure, the two highest dates are on Tuesday 30th June and Tuesday 29th September. You can also see that there is a general increase in weekly totals from January to June, followed by a fall-off during the summer, and increase in the Autumn, and a decline at the end of the year. I also picked out Saturday 2nd May as it seemed to be unusually low compared to other Saturdays. According to Met Éireann, this was a very wet, windy, and cold day.

So - the point of above is that these data are freely available for researchers to analyse. So far there is just four year's worth of data available. In the future, this will make for more interesting work when the data are richer and can be compared to other datasets, or combined with the likes of weather, other traffic, and accident data. Data such as this can inform local authorities to make decisions on the likes of cycle lanes and facilities for cyclists. The Rock Road is not bad for cyclists, with cycle lanes for most of the way from Blackrock to Dublin City Centre (the section between the Tara Towers Hotel and the Merrion Gates is a notorious and dangerous exception to this). 

For any HDSDA students reading this, there is not enough data so far to work with on a project, but you might consider comparing this to other city locations or other cities - plus combine with the likes of weather data.

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