Velobike 2018: Points for growth

With a population of over 12.6 million people, Moscow is considered the second densely populated city in Europe (after Istanbul). Living in a city like this becomes a real struggle both for its inhabitants and city planners. One of the most crucial aspects, which makes a city comfortable for living, is its transportation system. Even though Moscow metro is one of the longest in the world and has a daily ridership of around 7 million people, its capacity is still insufficient for the Russian capital. However, there is a new mean of public transport which develops really dynamically – bike-sharing.

Bike-sharing was introduced to the streets of Moscow in 2015. It is a special service provided by Velobike and Moscow Transport Department which allows the users to take a bicycle from one dock-station and return at another for a fee. Docks are special bike racks that lock the bike, and only release it by computer control. The user enters payment information, and the computer unlocks a bike. The user returns the bike by placing it in the dock, which locks it in place.

Since 2013 Velobike showed outstanding statistics: the number of bikes rose from 500 to 4300, the number of stations increased from 79 to 430, and the number of rides per a season – from 70,000 to 4.25 mln.

However, bikes still remain comparatively unpopular. For instance, car sharing in 2018 was used over 6 million times in 6 months of 2018. Even though bikes are cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and do not have traffic jams in Moscow, people tend to use cars more often.

Moreover, cycling infrastructure still leaves much to be desired. The improvement of customer experience by expanding the bike lane coverage would encourage locals and visitors to use the bike-sharing services more extensively.

Therefore, the analysis of Moscow bike-sharing could help to estimate the current trends in cycling in Moscow and develop the strategy for improving this service in the Russian capital.

Research question

What is the user map in bike-sharing? What regions/stations are the most popular? What is the relationship between actual bike-sharing routes and the bike lanes constructed in the city?

Hypothesis 1: The Central Administrative Okrug of Moscow is more popular among bike-sharing users than in other regions.

Hypothesis 2: Bike lanes are placed in accordance with the most popular bike routes.

Research method

The data for the analysis was kindly provided by Velobike company. The initial file consisted of the information about the stations (station ID, station address, its latitude and longitude) and the ride statistics (creation date of the profile, departure date, departure station ID, return date, return station ID, covered distance in meters, duration of the trip in seconds, contract type).

In order to visualize the data, I had to appoint the latitude and longitude of every station to every ride in accordance with the station ID number both for the pick-ups and returns. Due to the number of observations (4.25 mln) I used SPSS statistics software. As a result, I got an Excel table with the following characteristics:

  • DEPARTURE_DATE – exact date and time of the bike return in DD-MMM-YYY format
  • DEPARTURE_STATION_ID – identification number of the station with 4 digits
  • pickup_latitude – latitude of the pickup point
  • pickup_longtitude – longitude of the pickup point
  • RETURN_DATE – exact date and time of the bike return
  • return_latitude – latitude of return point
  • return_longtitude – longitude of the return point

This data was converted into CSV file to use in


The map of stations is relatively center concentrated. The stations are located mainly in Central Administrative Okrug. However, there are stations in 9 different regions of Moscow. In 2018 Velobike continues to grow – there are 50 new points in this season. The most distant ones are located in Beskudnikovo (north), and Orekhovo-Borisovo (south-east).

Velobike stations in 2018

The most popular stations by departure are located in the city center (color red) near the metro. The most popular station is Oktyabrskaya with 526.65 rides per day. The total number of stations with over 200 rides per day is 26. Majority of them is located whether in the city center, wether near touristic spots – parks and squares. As for the least popular, there are 34 bike stations with less than 25 rides. Usually, these stations are located far from the main passenger traffic (far from metro stations) or operated less time in the season.

As for the weekend/weekday comparison between pickups, people tend to take bikes in the city center during weekends. During working days, they tend to take bikes for short trips from home to the metro station on their way to work and back.

As for the returns, the overall statistics demonstrate that the situation with stations is relatively similar. For instance, Gorky Park station is also the most popular with 592.48 returns per day. However, this number is 1.13 times greater than pickups, which makes this station a donor (when the number of returns exceeds the number of takes, it means that this station is a recipient). Usually, the donor stations are located near the metro. People take bikes and commute to their point of interest. That is why the stations near metro are the most overloaded: there is a lack of bikes in the center during morning hours and no place to leave the bike in the evening. While on the periphery the tendency is vice verse.

Similarly, if we take a look at the statistics of the returns, stations in the city center are more popular during the weekdays that the weekends.

As for the bike routes, they are mainly concentrated within the limit of the stations. The ties with the distant stations are relatively low. In Beskudnikovo and Orekhovo Borisovo people take bikes and return to the same station. The first reason is the existence of the park, where they can enjoy the ride. And, second, is the remoteness from other bike stations.

Bike routes of Velobike users in 2018

However, if we take a look at the map of existing biking lanes, we will see that they do not even cover 10% of the routes. While the city is crowded with bikes in the center, there are only a few lanes there. However, some lanes are located in parks of different remote regions. Unfortunately, due to the limitation of the bike-sharing coverage, only people with privately-owned bikes can ride there.

Bike lanes map of Moscow, 2019

By combining two maps together, we can see how the existing bike lanes system should be improved. There is a need for creating a bike lane on the Garden Ring of Moscow, and along with the main prospects.

All in all, I propose to make the following system:

Red – existing lanes; orange – prospective lanes.

Creating a comprehensive bike lane system would make the trips safe and would encourage people to use bikes on long trips.

Conclusions and Limitations

Hypothesis 1: The Central Administrative Okrug of Moscow is more popular among bike-sharing users than in other regions.

Yes, the research showed that stations with the highest number of rides, returns and pickups are located in that district. Whereas within the district, the most popular stations are located near metro or parks.

Hypothesis 2: Bike lanes are placed in accordance with the most popular bike routes.

No, the research shows that the existing bike lane system does not adequately address the demand. That is why there is a strong need to develop it.

Bike-sharing is a really important aspect of Moscow transportation system. And while the service is trying to improve every season by extending the number of vehicles and stations, the bike lanes infrastructure slows down the development of the system. In this regard, it is essential to develop a complex map of lanes, especially in the city center. The proposed measures will not only increase the number of users but also would decrease the traffic congestion and the average travel time of Moscow dwellers.

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