Brussels – Villo and the Open Data Challenge

I was pleased to be invited to Brussels last week to pick up a prize for my Bike Share Map. It won the visualisation stream of the Open Data Challenge, which was organised by the Open Knowledge Foundation.

The presentation took place as part of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda Assembly event, and I was presented with a certificate by EC Vice President Neelie Kroes. You can briefly see me bumbling around the huge stage here (at around 2:40). What the video doesn’t show is the four prizewinners in each category had a minute each to say a few words about their project. It was somewhat unnerving giving unscripted remarks to an audience of over 1000 people plus a live web-stream, and having those remarks simultaneously translated into French and German, signed by an on-stage interpreter, and subtitled on the huge screens. (Photo: OKFN)

I also attended the Open Data workshop which took place before the plenary and prize-giving. There were a number of short, interesting talks here – including a presentation from Rennes in France – who have a very well developed API for accessing their public transport data including Bike Share, and an introduction to the Open Cities project. You can download both presentations from the link above.

I took the opportunity, the following morning, to use a Villo bike share bike, to head from my hotel back to the Eurostar at Brussels Midi station. The route looked straightforward on the map – basically down a long, straight street with a dedicated, paved cycle path on the pavement, and then a bit of weaving through the centre of town. What I didn’t anticipate was the large roundabout right by my starting station. I did just about manage it, and think I completed the 5km journey in just less than the half-hour free time. Having seven gears (rather than three in London) was useful for building up a decent speed, and the front basket was useful for carrying my coat and luggage. The process was pretty painless – I just used my credit card – and the big docking station at the end was very visible and had a couple of free spaces. In short – the scheme worked well and I was pleased to be able to do part of my journey back using bike share.

So, pleased to have had the Bike Share Map recognised in this way – even Boris heard about it! I’m planning on adding some more cities soon – European and otherwise – to the 30+ already on the map. While not all the feeds I’m using are probably genuinely “open”, things are hopefully starting to move in that direction. In time, hopefully all cities will come to recognise the value of including bike share and other public transport data as part of their open data platforms.