Cool Maps Show How People Get Around Boston

Unsurprisingly, we tend to walk more and drive less than people in other cities.

The makers of an activities-tracking iPhone app have used a ton of data to show how people in different cities are getting around.

The goal of the the Human app is to motivate users to increase the amount of time they spend exercising. The app runs in the background and tracks minutes spent walking, running, and biking, with the goal to get users active for at least 30 minutes a day.

After being in business for about half a year, the developers realized they were sitting on a megaload of information—10 terabytes, which in practical terms means some 7.5 million miles of data, covering more than 55 million user activities.

So they wrote up a couple of programs to analyze that data and broke it down by activity, for 30 major cities across the globe. And then they visualized the results, tracking their users’ activities on maps. The results are fascinating, and show how people get around Boston. Like this one, which shows how people travel on foot on a typical day:

Naturally, there’s a lot of walking in the Financial District during the day, and there’s activity throughout the day up and down what appears to be Commonwealth Avenue (no doubt, Boston University students between classes).

Where and when Bostonians bike:

Where and when they run and jog:


And, finally, where the evil cars are:

Using the data, the developers created charts that compare the activities of one city’s users with those of users throughout the world. And, then they ranked the activities of users in the 30 cities on another series of charts.

It appears Bostonians are about average when it comes to the level of activities they engage in on a daily basis. Residents bike less than the rest of the world. Not surprisingly, for “America’s Walking City,” Boston is in the top 10 when it comes to walking. Surprisingly, in the city home to the Boston Marathon, we run about as much as people anywhere else.

The data has some limitations. It doesn’t cover all the neighborhoods in the city—just downtown, Roxbury, East Boston, and parts of Dorchester, and it includes Cambridge as if it were “Boston.” Also, apparently, the developer’s app isn’t sophisticated enough to distinguish between users driving their own cars or taking public transportation, but that doesn’t really matter since that’s not exercise. And these aren’t scientific results-the activities tracked are only those of iPhone users who have downloaded the Human app, leaving out Android and Blackberry (gulp) owners, who may have their own, different habits.

Even so, the videos are pretty amazing.