Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mapping Pedestrian Accidents

With so many great mapping visualization tools on the market it is tempting to just grab some geo-located data and throw it onto a map. You can then publish it online and shout out to the world, 'Hey look at this cool map'.

Twitter did that this week with their Torque powered map News of  Ferguson Spreads Across Twitter. The map has worked very well as an advertisement for Twitter (I've seen the map referenced in a number of the most popular websites this week and it has also continuously popped up in my Twitter stream). However I'm struggling to work out what this map tells us, except that the events in Ferguson have been mentioned a lot on social media.1

Not all of the popular news websites are guilty of this scatter-gun approach to data mapping. A number of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Guardian and The Global Mail, have really upped their game over the last few years and are creating some great mapped visualizations that help to explain the stories hidden behind the data.

With the availability of easy to use narrative mapping tools, like Esri Story Maps, CartoDB's Odyssey.js and Knight Lab's Story Map, we are also seeing many more independent map developers creating really interesting maps which try to look at the narratives and stories behind their mapped data.

However you don't have to use these narrative mapping platforms to create interesting maps. For example, I really like this map from the Boston Globe exploring Massachusetts Pedestrian Crashes.

I've seen a lot of similar maps over the years of car crashes, pedestrian accidents, bike crashes etc. A lot of cities now have this data available as open-data and it is a fairly easy job to simply throw that data on a map and publish it to the world.

What I particularly like about this map is how the Boston Globe has gone to the trouble to explore some of the hot-spots in the data. If you select the 'see hot-spots' link the map zooms to a hot-spot, creates a boundary around the location and a map inset attempts to explain some of the issues around why this location might suffer from an abnormally high number of pedestrian crashes.

TL;DR:  - I like this Boston Globe map

1 For a more detailed critique of Twitter's Ferguson map see this Floating Sheep article.
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