MapCarte 81/365: Barclays Cycle Hire by Ollie O’Brien, 2014

MapCarte81_obrienOllie O’Brien (@oobr) has been making maps of the data produced by use of the London Barclays Cycle Hire bikeshare scheme since its launch. He’s produced a number of inspiring and beautifully designed maps including an interactive, detailed one featured in MapCarte 28. This, perhaps, represents the opposite in design terms.

O’Brien doesn’t do anything particularly innovative in terms of the thematic mapping but what he does do, he does well and as a static map the visual impression is a powerful one. The map illustrates the volume of bikeshare use based on a year of data from February 2012 to January 2013. The routes mapped are those which are the most likely between paired bike stations (origin and destination) and the line is proportional to volume – a typical way of showing quantity of flow along a linear route. It’s a simple concept yet a striking image. The map was chosen as the cover of Issue 7946 of the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal, an international peer reviewed medical journal).


BMJ used the map as their cover art to highlight a paper that explored the health benefits of the bikeshare scheme compared to other forms of transport. The saturated red of the routes is a clear metaphor for a blood capillary network and resonates well as cover art. O’Brien chose to exclude all other detail except for the iconic River Thames. In so doing, he in effect used the same approach as Harry Beck (London Underground map) in relying on the river as an anchor that helps us see the structure of the city. We do not need road names or legends because deep data mining and data recovery is not the point.. The map’s design is minimalist but hints at detail and gives us a clear impression of the core of use, the most popular routes and the periphery. A lot of data reduced to red lines and a great journal cover that was seen by over 120,000 people who subscribe to the print journal along with 1.3 million monthly unique page hits online. Not a bad way to get your work seen.

See Ollie’s web site here for more details and to see his other work.