According to the French, if you’re looking for speed the best day to ride might be Wednesday.
Located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône Rivers and with a population of almost a half-million, Lyon and its suburbs is the second-largest metro area in France (Paris, of course, is the largest). Five years ago, Lyon introduced a shared-bicycle system in an attempt to reduce the gridlock that had been plaguing this community. The program, called Velo’v, now offers almost 4000 bicycles at nearly 350 locations throughout the city. By all measures it has been wildly successful, with some 16000 journeys by bicycle being completed *per day* — and as a side note, this means that each bicycle is being used an average of four separate times each day!
Since its introduction, the system has kept track of the start and
finishing location plus travel time of every journey. A group of researchers examined 11.6 million bicycle trips in Lyon between May 2005
and December 2007.
Some of what they found is unsurprising. Over an average trip,
cyclists travel 2.49 km in 14.7 minutes so their average speed is about
10 km/h. That compares well with the average car speed in inner cities
across Europe. During the rush hour, however, the average speed rises to almost 15km/h, a speed which outstrips the average car speed (and that’s not including the time needed to park the car).
Other results reveal the habits of the urban cyclist for the first
time. For example, there is a clear peak in average speed at 7:45 am and
8:45 am on working days, when presumably there is rush to get to work.
The average speed drops to a more leisurely 10 km/h at weekends.
Curiously, the Wednesday morning speeds are systematically higher
than on other days, even though there is no change in other factors such
as the number of cars. This, according to the researchers, is probably because
women tend to stay at home and look after their children on a Wednesday
in France, so their hypothesis is that higher proportion of men pushes up the average speed.
Some other information, unfortunately, tends to show that the bad habits of cycling might very well be universal. For example, the data also shows that bike journeys between two points are shorter
in distance than the corresponding journey by car. As there are no bike
lanes in Lyon this suggests that cyclists use other techniques to
make short cuts — such as riding on the sidewalk, along bus lanes, and the wrong way up one way streets.
More details at http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26092/