What are Helsinki City bikes?

Helsinki City Bikes are shared bicycles available to the public in Helsinki and Espoo metropolitan areas. The main aim of the Helsinki city bike system is to address the so-called last-mile problem present in all distribution networks. The city bikes were introduced in 2016 as a pilot project with only 46 bike stations available in Helsinki. After becoming popular among the citizens, Helsinki city decided to gradually expand the bike network. In the period between 2017 and 2019, approximately one hundred stations were being added to the network each year. By 2019 the bike network reached its complete state with only 7 stations being added in 2020. As of 2020, there were 3,510 bikes and 350 stations operating in Helsinki and Espoo.

Since 2016 more than 10.000.000 rides have been made. The total distance of the trips is 25.291.523 kilometres. To put that in perspective 25.3 million kilometres is 65 times the distance to the moon. The total time all residents spent riding the bikes is approximately 280 Years and 4 months.

In order to use the city bikes, citizens purchase access for a day, week or the entire cycling season that lasts from April to November. All passes include an unlimited number of 30-minute bike rides. For an extra fee of 1€/hour, you can use the bike for longer. Bikes are picked up and returned to stations that are located all around Helsinki and Espoo.

Exploratory Data Analysis

Dataset structure

The underlying dataset has the following structure.

What the average ride looks like?

The city bike system has grown significantly since 2016, however, how the city bikes are used has not changed substantially. If we look at the individual trips made drug the last 5 years, we will see that the average ride duration is around 13 minutes while the average travelled distance is approximately 2242 meters(1.4 miles). Given the right-skewed distribution of the data, the averages are slightly skewed and the majority of trips actually last from 4–8 minutes and cover a distance of 1700 meters (approx.1 mile).

_As we can see above the vast majority of rides are shorter than 30 minutes. Nevertheless, 3.2% of users ended up exceeding the half an hour limit. Those users that exceeded the 30-minute limit but not the 60-minutes limit collectively paid is _€261.715 since the launch of the city bikes in 2016.

When are the City Bikes used?

The daily number of bike trips between 2016 and 2020. Image by the author.

Above you can see the number of daily bike trips since the launch of the City bike system. As we can see expanding the coverage of the network has a huge impact on the number of trips made by the citizens. It is also visible that 2020 was the first year when bike usage declined. There are multiple possible explanations. This decrease can be due to the COVID-19 pandemic or because the city bike network reached the end of its growth phase.

If we look at the heatmap below we can see a well-established daily usage pattern. The Most intensive bike usage occurs from 6:00 to 8:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00 on weekdays. This shows that bikes are actively used by commuters around the beginning and the end of the working day.

The heatmap shows the number of rides by weekday and hours of the day between 2016 and 2020. Image by the author.

On weekends, however, the usage pattern is different. Seems like Helsinkis’ citizens prefer to kick off the weekend a little late. The most active hours are between 15:00 and 17:00. Interestingly enough, the usage of city bikes is higher around midnight on weekends. This could mean that on weekends city bikes are used as a substitute when the other forms of public transport are no longer available.

Since the City bikes are actively used by commuters, it is natural to assume that the Covid pandemic and the transition to remote work had some effect on city bike usage. The graph below illustrates bike usage patterns for the past three years(2018–2020).

Bike usage heatmaps 2018–2020. Image by the author.

These graphs already illustrate that there is some difference in 2020 bike usage patterns. Besides the decrease in the overall bike usage, the number of trips during the rush hours has also decreased.

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Helsinki City Bikes: Exploratory Data Analysis
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