Makeover Monday 2021/W1: The Great Bicycle Boom of 2020

Young multiethnic friends walking with bikes near trees
Photo Credit: Charlotte May/pexels.com
  • This article was written as part of my capstone project for the Udacity Data Visualization Nanodegree program.

Introduction:

For my capstone project, I chose Makeover Monday 2021 Week 1:The Great Bicycle Boom of 2020. I was interested in seeing just how much more people were biking in 2020 as compared to previous years.

Analysis:

The original visualization can be seen below:

This line graph was okay, it got the point across and was an appropriate choice for the weekly time-based data. However, there was no storytelling here. The axes and labeling were difficult to read, confusing and provided no real context. I kept asking myself “so what?” I knew I could improve the visual in 4 specific ways:

1) I wanted to place more emphasis on the comparison between individual weeks.

2) I wanted to focus on the percentage of increased bike counts between 2019 and 2020 and tell a story of why these changes might have occurred.

3) I wanted to differentiate between pre/post “lockdown” bike counts in 2020 using appropriate annotations.

4) The orange and blue were clearly default colors and the legend could be improved or eliminated with better labeling.

Solution:

For the first solution, I used a lollipop chart to compare years and emphasize the endpoints. I changed the colors to green as it felt relevant to outdoor trails. Light green represents lower counts (2019) while dark green represents increase counts (2020). I eliminated the need for a legend by adding the colors directly into the header.

For the second visualization, I focused on the percent of change throughout the year and used annotation to show exactly when the Covid-19 lockdowns occurred.

I also created a Tableau Story that shows how bike counts changed throughout the year. I offered some context around lockdowns and seasons and speculated as to why these may have affected the counts.

I feel these two visualization approaches tell a much better story. We can now see how and make assumptions as to why the bike counts increased in 2020 such as lockdowns and seasons.

As stated by the Rails to Trails Conservancy:

Counts increased by 75% between the week of March 9, 2020 (210k) and March 16, 2020 (367k). That is greater than the week-over-week increases recorded in 2019.These findings support conclusions that the pandemic and associated travel restrictions may have had a significant impact on trail usage nationwide.

Next Steps:

For more information, you can explore my Tableau Public dashboard here: https://public.tableau.com/views/BicycleBoom2020-Dashboard/Dashboard1?:language=en&:display_count=y&publish=yes&:origin=viz_share_link

And my Tableau Public story here: https://public.tableau.com/views/BicycleBoom2020-Story/Story1?:language=en&:display_count=y&publish=yes&:origin=viz_share_link

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