Mar 11, 2011 - 2 Comments - BCN and around, Interactive systems -

Bicing Spider: bicycle sharing data visualization (Beta)

Do you use the Bicing service in Barcelona? Want to take a quick, fun look at the current state of the system? Take a look at Bicing Spider, a Bicing visualization app (Mac only so far, sorry).

For those who don’t know it, Bicing is a bicycle sharing system, active since March of 2007 in Barcelona. I’m a frequent user of the system, and I have previously suggested that the station search system could be improved.

This app will load a (static Google) map of Barcelona and will superimpose a visualization of the current state of the bicing stations near the cursor. Every station is represented with a color-coded circle: the radius of the circle is inversely proportional to the distance from the cursor position (the closer, the bigger), and its color represents the amount of bikes available. If green, the station is full of bikes. If red, there are no bikes available. Possible tones in-between will give an idea of the amount of bikes.


If you right-click, you will see the name of the stations inside the radius of detection. The radius can be adjusted by means of the vertical scroll (mouse or touchpad). A right-click will show the names of the stations and the distances from the cursor position, plus a surprise. With both clicks, the name of the closest station is highlighted.


The map can be zoomed to four different zoom levels by using the keyboard keys 1,2,3 and 4. Vertical and horizontal navigation is possible by using the arrow keys.

Be aware that the map views are loaded dinamically from Google, so they might take some time to upload, depending on the speed of your Internet conection. Also, there’s an initial longer load time due to the loading of the Bicing station information. Evidently, an Internet connection is necessary for the progam to work correctly.

It’s important to understand that this is not the tool somebody would use daily to look check for available bikes (though it could be used for that). One will not be able to know the exact amount of bikes available in avery station. However, most of the time one doesn’t need to know that exact number: to know that there are bikes available is generally enough.


The Bicing data was gathered using similar tools as the ones used by this simple bicing service I developed. It uses PHP and the Google Static Maps API. The interface was done in Apple’s Quartz Composer, and compiled with Xcode.

This application helps to illustrate many ideas:

  • (Once again) that there might be different, more fun ways to show the same information
  • It somehow describes the current state of the city: on a holiday, most stations around touristic areas are full, while stations at residential areas tend to be empty. With additional development and access to further data (historical, per-bike, etc), an interesting analysis of the movement of the “bicing people” across the city could be done.
  • The power of combining interesting tools, in this case, PHP, Quartz Composer and Google Maps. This is a very simple example, but more complex and interesting tools could be developed.
  • Also, it shows the possibilities of Quartz Composer as a prototyping tool

Hope you enjoy it, whether you live in Barcelona or not (and if you don’t, come to visit soon!).

2 Responses to Bicing Spider: bicycle sharing data visualization (Beta)


    Lo que puedo sacar en claro es que adoras el servicio de bicicletas, lo cual me encanta. Buenísimo y muy instructivo el mapa y las explicaciones del artículo. Love u. Ma

    12 Mar 2011 - Reply
  2. Adi Lungu

    Hi Juan

    I am working on a website that will be a marketplace for experiences and I am considering including bike rentals as one of the features. I was just surfing the web when I came across your site and I am downloading your app as we speak.

    I would appreciate if you could help me out with some data and I am interested in everything from no of bicycles, commuters, rentals in major cities whether in Europe and US/CA. Or any insights that you might consider could benefit me.

    I spent two New Years Eves in Barcelona, I am Romanian by birth and I currently live in NYC, Brooklyn.

    Thanking you for your time and consideration,

    Adi Lungu

    12 Apr 2012 - Reply

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