Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Visualizing Street Orientation



If you seem to always be traveling in the same direction then it might be because you are. If you live in a large U.S. city then you probably spend most of your time locked in the city grid, traveling back and forth in the same old directions day after day, your direction of travel always determined by the orientation of the city's streets.

You can view how your city is orientated on Geoff Boeing's Comparing City Street Orientations
Geoff's post includes a number of compass rose visualizations showing the street orientation patterns of 25 major American cities. This series of compass roses reveals that nearly all U.S. cities have rigid grid systems. The only exceptions to the rule appear to be Boston and Charlotte.


A few years ago Visual Statistix also explored the road direction patterns in America. It also created similar visualizations for a number of European cities. These static maps with accompanying rose diagrams are a great visualization of urban road patterns. They are particularly illuminating in illustrating the differences between the planned grid-patterns of American cities and the more organic sprawl found in European cities.

VeloViewer were inspired by Visual Statistix to also explore how different city streets are orientated. Their blog post Interactive Road Orientation Distributions – How Ordered is Your Town? includes examples of compass road diagrams showing street orientations in San Francisco, Austin and Sheffield (UK).

VeloViewer also created an interactive map which allowed you to create a rose diagram for any location showing the street orientation in the current map view. The post includes a link to the map - although unfortunately the map no longer appears to work.


Data Pointed has also been experimenting with how you can visualize the orientation of city streets. Data Pointed however eschewed the age-old compass rose in favor of coloring the streets based on their orientation. Crayon the Grids is a series of maps in which the color of individual streets are determined by the direction that they are orientated. The results are pretty stunning.

This series of gorgeous visualizations includes maps of San Francisco, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, London, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin and Boston.
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