Exploring Hubway’s Data II

Today, I’ve been experimenting with a new way to visualize origin-destination pairs (ODs). The following image shows my first results:

The ideas was to add a notion of direction as well as uncertainty. The “flower petals” have a pointed origin and grow wider towards the middle. (Looking at the final result, they should probably go much narrower towards the end again.) The area covered by the petals is a simple approximation of where I’d expect the bike routes without performing any routing.

To get there, I reprojected the connection lines to EPSG:3857 and calculated connection length and line orientation using QGIS Field Calculator $length operator and the bearing formula given in QGIS Wiki:

(atan((xat(-1)-xat(0))/(yat(-1)-yat(0)))) * 180/3.14159 + (180 *(((yat(-1)-yat(0)) < 0) + (((xat(-1)-xat(0)) < 0 AND (yat(-1) - yat(0)) >0)*2)))

For the style, I created a new “flower petal” SVG symbol in Inkscape and styled it with varying transparency values: Rare connections are more transparent than popular ones. This style is applied to the connection start points. Using the advanced options “size scale” and “rotation”, it is possible to rotate the petals into the right direction as well as scale them using the previously calculated values for connection length and orientation.


While the above example uses pretty wide petals this one is done with a much narrower petal. I think it’s more appropriate for the data at hand:

Most of the connections are clearly heading south east, across Charles River, except for that group of connections pointing the opposite direction, to Harvard Square.

  1. miblon said:

    Nice approach! I am going to use it but experiment with the petal shape

  2. geouk said:

    Could this technique be used for plume modelling? That would be interesting – great stuff Anita.

    • Good idea! It could probably be a very simple approximation of a plume model. I don’t know much about the topic but I’d expect it to be more complex than simply fitting a certain shape using length and orientation.

      • Ezra said:

        I haven’t done any actual plume modelling myself, but I have worked with the modellers and their results. I think the key to your question is that it could definitely be used as a first approximation. For the original application, Anita wrote “a simple approximation of where I’d expect the bike routes without performing any routing.” Replace ‘bike routes w/out routing’ with ‘plumes without detailed modeling’ (for example, if you just have the dominant wind direction and the dispersion distance) and I think her steps would apply.

  3. Awesome stuff. Your post are always among the most creative ones that can be found about QGIS. Great work!

  4. looks like a love message for gis people ;)

    • a happy coincidence :)

  5. Bash said:


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