Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Cities & Street Patterns

Similar Cities is an interesting project which organizes the world's cities based on the similarities in their road networks. It is in effect an interactive network graph in which cities are connected to other cities that share a similar looking street network.

Using the Similar Cities' drop-down menu it is possible to search for individual cities to view a snapshot of the city's road network and the road networks of the cities who most closely resemble the selected city. On this graph you would expect to find planned U.S. cities with strict grid plans (such as New York and Chicago) connected to each other. However it is worth remembering that grid plans are not new and that the 'Hippodamian Plan' (grid plan) originally got its name from the ancient Greek city planner Hippodamus of Miletus.

According to Similar Cities the city with the closest street pattern to New York is Lima, Peru. The street grid of Lima is commonly known as the 'damero de Pizarro' (Pizarro’s draftboard). Francisco Pizarro founded Lima in 1535 and laid out the city in a regular street grid in order to divide the land into regular sized plots which could be given to new settlers. Strict street grids were commonly used by the Spanish in South America partly as an agent of control and to ensure that a city could be expanded quickly and effectively. 

New York's street plan dates back to 1807, when the state legislature appointed Gouverneur Morris, John Rutherfurd, and Simeon De Witt to devise an orderly street plan for Manhattan.Part of the purpose of the new map of New York, as the New York City Council stated, was "laying out Streets... in such a manner as to unite regularity and order". That is how New York became the orderly and restrained city that we love today.

If you want to explore a city's street pattern in more detail then you can use City Roads. City Roads (by the same developer as Similar Cities) is a fantastic online tool which you can use to create your very own road map for any city in the world. Enter a city name into City Roads and it will generate a map of the city showing only the city's road network using data taken from OpenStreetMap.

City Road really is very easy to use. All you have to do is enter a location and City Roads will create your road map. Once finished you can customize the map a little by changing the background color and the color of the roads. You can even download the map as a PNG image or order it printed on a mug.

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