THE LOOP — Gabriel Gaster is a cyclist, public transit enthusiast and numbers cruncher with an interesting job he also calls a hobby: taking large piles of data and mapping them in beautifully interactive displays for Datascope Analytics in the Loop.
For Chicago bike commuters and hobbyists, Gaster's latest passion project drawn from Divvy user data could change the way cyclists map their routes around town.
His Interactive Divvy Traffic Pattern Map fills an information gap by mapping routes most heavily traversed by two-wheeled travelers, asking users to simply "mouse over a station" to find out "where do they bike from here?"
Lizzie Schiffman explains how the Divvy data could be used to help move bicyclists around Chicago:
While it wasn't the project's original intent — that was just to play with the newly available data, Gaster said — the end result was "an organic development of frequently traveled routes" citywide.
"I think what's so cool about Divvy is that really it allows you to get around the city in a very different way," the Logan Square resident, Rogers Park native and lifelong cyclist said.
"Points that were previously far apart on public transportation are really close because of Divvy. Divvy allows you to travel through the grid of the city much more directly."
With his map, which plots travel patterns based on frequency between each of the city's 300 stations, "you can see where people are actually going."
While maps are available that identify the city's official bike paths, plotting Divvy use data revealed favored paths on routes that don't include official bike-friendly infrastructure, like painted bike lanes or physical barriers.
Gaster insists that the Divvy usage data reflects traffic patterns for all cyclists, despite "a common misconception that Divvy bikers and people who own their bikes are separate groups."
"I own a bike, and I also Divvy," Gaster said. "I think that what's amazing about Divvy is it's not a replacement for owning a bike, as far as I see it — it's a supplement. It's like a bicycle that fits in your pocket" for cyclists who want to make one-way trips on their preferred mode of transportation.
Gaster says he thinks there's a wealth of information for cyclists — Divvy or otherwise — to be pulled from his data map, and he's eager for his fellow cyclists to help him find it.
"I think one prime way to use it is to think about new bike routes," he said, but "there's a multitude of possible ways it could be used."