A Look at Street Network Orientation in Major US Cities

Geoff Boeing, a postdoc in the Urban Analytics Lab at the University California, Berkeley, has published a blog post that offers a fascinating look at the street orientation of major cities in the USA and around the world. What is interesting in his findings is how cities from different historical periods form different patterns, and also just how uniformly grid-structured most American cities are. From his post: In 1960, Kevin Lynch published The Image of the City, his treatise on the legibility of urban patterns. How coherent is a city’s spatial organization? How do these patterns help or hinder urban navigation? I recently wrote about visualizing street orientations with Python and OSMnx. That is, how is a city’s street network oriented in terms of the streets’ compass bearings? How well does it adhere to a straightforward north-south-east-west layout? I wanted to revisit this by comparing 25 major US cities’ orientations. Each of the cities is represented by a polar histogram (aka rose diagram) depicting how its streets orient. Each bar’s direction represents the compass bearings of the streets (in that histogram bin) and its length represents the relative frequency of streets with those bearings. [...] Most cities’ polar histograms similarly tend to cluster in at least a rough, approximate way. But then there are Boston and Charlotte. Unlike most American cities that have one or two primary street grids organizing city circulation, their streets are more evenly distributed in every direction. Boeing published a follow-up to the post to include to compare world cities.

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