This ridiculous walking distance map is actually awesome


When I browse the web looking for cool maps, I find a lot of very interesting but from the cartographic stand point, boring projects. So when I came across this map, I knew I had to feature it on the blog.

The map created by John Nelson shows areas reachable via a walk within 1, 2, and 3 hours from the city center of Seattle. Instead of using regular isochrones displayed on the top of a map, John decided to go the other way around and he wrapped the space to conform to these walkability rings. The effect is really cool.

Example of typical cartogram map

He used a concept of cartograms that distort geometry by a selected parameter to convey a given message. In this case, the parameter was isochrone that shows equal travel time from a given point. In fact, distorting the space in a non-projection manner is much more common for designers and cartographers than you might think. The best examples are metro maps. Almost all of them have a quite loose approach to space and geometry, and we still love them.

I find this map really interesting and not only because I like to walk. If the walking is the main dimension than this way of presenting a geographic space is the most realistic one. All maps are distorted, and they are a compromise between the reality, mathematics, perception and the goal of the map. In that sense playing with distorting space and geometry is fully acceptable as long as it helps to convey a given message and makes it easier for a reader to understand it.


Interestingly the map has been created in ArcGIS and John shared how he has done it.

Aleks Buczkowski
I'm a professional always thinking outside the box and a self-confessed gadget addict. As a son of a professor of cartography I was surrounded by maps all my life and as a result spatial way of thinking and seeing reality is naturally embedded in who I am.