Using weather data to understand usage of Glasgow’s cycle hire scheme

Karen Macpherson of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) approached UBDC for help with one of a series of reports on active, sustainable travel that the GCPH was preparing on Glasgow City Council’s cycle hire scheme.

They wanted to analyse usage of the scheme against a range of factors, one of which was the weather. While the Met Office produces the data they wanted, they requested our help in accessing and preparing it for useful linkage, which our expert team of data scientists was happy to do. The final report, Glasgow’s public cycle hire scheme: analysis of usage between 2014 & 2016, was published in March 2017. This case study provides a high-level summary; please check out the full report for a full analysis including graphs, charts, and factors other than weather.

The challenge

Only 23% of households in Glasgow have access to a bike for personal use. Glasgow City Council’s vision is “to create a vibrant Cycling City where cycling is accessible, safe and attractive to all” (PDF 6.23MB). Supporting the growth of the Council’s cycle hire scheme will help to make cycling a more viable option for many people. The cycle hire system in Glasgow was launched in 2014 and within the first two years of operation 16,000 people had registered for the service resulting in around 200,000 hires.

We wanted to explore how successful the cycle hire scheme has been in Glasgow, and what factors influenced public take-up - documenting its growth, peak times of use, demographic aspects, and seasonal and other external factors that had an impact on its use. We wanted to measure the impact of weather conditions as part of our analysis.

The Urban Big Data Centre supplied Met Office weather data from their Open Data Collection for us to use. They also helped us by adding value to the data by curating it first to make it easier for us to use for our purpose.

Our approach

Weather data recorded by the Met Office’s Glasgow/Bishopton weather station provided hourly records indicating the observed temperature, wind speed, wind gust speed, and prevailing weather conditions. We linked the bike hire data to this data, enabling the individual impact of the different weather variables on the number of hires made to be studied.

Our findings

The overall mean number of bike hires over the two-year period was around 260 hires per day. We found that sunny weather does have an impact on the number of hires, with the highest average number of rentals occurring then. Numbers were around average in cloudy conditions and when showery, suggesting that these conditions don’t impact on people’s decisions to rent a bike.

Rain, on the other hand, does seem to reduce numbers, as does snow and mist/fog. Numbers for less prevalent weather conditions such as snow showers are small so the results shown for these instances are less certain than those for more commonly observed conditions. Likewise, the number of hires corresponding to weather observations during hours of darkness are smaller than those for daylight weather observations and again the results should be treated with caution.

Our findings on the impact of the air temperature on the number of hires show a strong relationship between temperature and frequency of hires. As the temperature increases so do the number of hires, with an increase in the average number of hires per hour of 1.44 for every 1 degree increase in temperature. Again, the numbers at either end of the graph reflect small numbers of occurrences, so should be treated with caution. The number of hires per hour decreases gradually as the wind speed increases.

The impact

The data prepared for this project has been made available as a separate slice in UBDC’s Open Data Collection, to enable others to use it. This mutually beneficial collaboration is something the UBDC plans to repeat with the GCPH and we have another case study coming soon from Bruce Whyte on the use of our urban indicators data to investigate children’s access to greenspace in Glasgow – watch this space.

Related Content

£1m investment pledged in response to Hot Homes project

Responding directly to the issues highlighted in our Hot Homes project - UBDC’s innovative collaboration with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism - Southwark Council has pledged £1m to protect their most vulnerable dwellings from the worst impacts of climate change.

Read story

Zoopla data analysis cited by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer cited Institute of Fiscal Studies analysis of Zoopla data - held under licence by the Urban Big Data Centre - as influencing his decision-making in his 2023 Autumn Statement.

Read story

Shaping housing policy with Zoopla data analysis

Analysis of Zoopla data, held under licence by the Urban Big Data Centre, has informed two significant projects focusing on homelessness and housing requirements for lower-income households.

Read story

Waterproofing Data Project - Full report and resources

The ESRC Celebrating Impact Award winning, Waterproofing Data project engaged local people from marginalised communities, including school children and the elderly, to map flood prone areas and generate new data on past and present flood events.

Read story

Using spare CCTV to monitor activity on city streets

The Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) is working closely with Glasgow City Council (GCC) to develop innovative methods for monitoring activity on Glasgow’s streets using excess on the city’s extensive CCTV network.

Read story

Workforce challenges in Adult Social Care

Researchers shed light on workforce challenges in adult social care, using an expansive dataset held by UBDC looking at workforce challenges in adult social care.

Read story

How to 'REPAIR' our high streets

Researchers from UBDC and the Universities of Glasgow, Sheffield and UCL conducted a mixed method study called Real Estate, Place Adaptation and Innovation within an integrated Retailing system.

Read story

Scottish Local Government during COVID-19: Data Needs, Capabilities, and Uses

The Urban Big Data Centre carried out an in-depth analysis of Scottish local government’s data engagement between autumn 2020 and spring 2021.

Read story

Older people and sedentary behaviour: what’s the connection with the environment?

UBDC assisted with a research project contrasting the relationships between sedentary behaviour measures on the one hand and neighbourhood measures on the other.

Read story
pagination arrow
pagination arrow

Jointly funded by