cf. city flows

An interactive bike share map finds beauty in the chaos of commuting

City Terrain International Media Transportation
Data visualization in progress. (Image via cf. city flows)
Data visualization in progress. (Image via cf. city flows)

With few exceptions, biking in urban centers is a harrowing experience even for seasoned riders supported by healthy cycling infrastructure. To help citizens casually analyze the chaos, two German visual designers created a new kinesthetic map of bike shares that imposes harmony on street-level discord via evocative maps that illustrate how the shares shape urban infrastructure.

The designers, Till Nagel and Christopher Pietsch, compiled GPS data from bike shares in three major cities to create cf. city flows, an interactive visualization of cycling mobility.

(Image via cf. city flows)

New York City (Image via cf. city flows)

Visitors to Potsdam’s Urban Complexity Lab can compare mobility in London, Berlin, and New York on side-by-side screens. In New York, for example, colorful dots flagellate along Manhattan’s grid smoothly until they reach a barrier between Midtown and Central Park South that shoots them back downtown. Viewers can zoom out to see evocative macro movements; zero in on select individual stations to observe color-coded incoming (green) and outgoing (orange) journeys; or access a “small multiple” view that juxtaposes data from different city districts.

The designers visualize the trips by sizing base maps comparatively, extracting ridership data, and calculating optimal bike routes (more information on the project’s methodology can be found here). In Berlin and London, the city’s organic layout is more apparent as the designers tease out commuting patterns to and from business districts and most-visited neighborhoods. Compared to the 35,000 trips represented on the London and New York maps, Nagel and Pietsch explain that Berlin’s less-than-2,000-trip map looks relatively sedate because most residents own their own bikes, while bike shares are geared towards tourists and leisure activities.

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