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What Boston’s public bikes tell us about the city

A competition to visualize data from the Hubway system yields beautiful insights.

Andy Woodruff

Where do people in Boston want to go—and when? It’s hard to get good data about people in cars, or the masses who take the ­MBTA every day. But one young Boston transit project has opened an extraordinary window into how the city moves: the Hubway bike rental system. From its launch on July 28, 2011, the system has recorded detailed information about riders and their rides from more than a hundred stations in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. This fall Hubway released the data from more than half a million trips from the launch up through September 2012, and issued a public challenge: come up with the most interesting, artistic, information-rich ways to present it. The results offer a fresh portrait of the rhythms of city life, and of how Boston (and its visitors) have made use of this new way to get around. Below are details from some of the winning entries; the full gallery is at

Though just over a mile apart, Boston's North and South Stations have had no direct train connection since 1938; expensive plans to link them have yet to bear fruit. Hubway commuters have created a jerryrigged connection of their own: The number one and two trips on the system were South Station to North Station and back again. To the right, the graph's diagonal white line reveals a pattern—cyclists often leave from and return to the same station. (Graphic by Andy Woodruff.)