Following my map of London’s green and blue infrastructure, I have been working on some analysis of the land uses. I was inspired and encouraged to try this by Liliana’s interesting work called “imagining all of Southwark“. Lili and Ari have managed to get the council to release lots of data on properties and car parking, and they are producing analysis of this data by postal code area and by street. They haven’t managed to get anything on land uses, so I thought, why not produce this with OpenStreetMap data? A few evenings later, here is the result shared on Google docs (direct link) covering the eight postal code areas that between them cover most of the borough (SE1, SE5, SE15, SE16, SE17, SE21, SE22, SE24): [googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”key=0Ago4j1EdZaOFdHlYTE9CNU15VUxGdDBLeVpPV0gxbFE&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”300″ /] What the data means The “summary” worksheet shows the total land area, expressed in hectares (10,000 m2),…

Read More Analysing Southwark’s natural geography

I’ve been playing around with open data from OpenStreetMap and Natural England to make a pretty map of “green and blue infrastructure” in London. Here’s the result: You can download a PDF version suitable for printing here: natural_london. I’m pretty happy with the result, my first real attempt to produce something useful with QGIS. The data I used was: OpenStreetMap shapefiles for most features from Geofabrik, supplemented by… Manually retrieved commons and marshes using the Overpass API (not yet present in Geofabrik shapefiles) Natural England shapefiles for orchards, deciduous woodlands and sites of special scientific interest Ordnance Survey Boundary-Line shapefiles for the Greater London and London borough boundaries There’s no reason the Natural England data couldn’t be manually added to OpenStreetMap, giving us a complete dataset of natural features. I just chose to get on and do it this way rather than wait, or try to add all the data across areas…

Read More London’s natural geography

Similar to Gail Ramster, I went along to the Friday afternoon part of UK GovCamp 2012 without really knowing why. I suspect most people would say the same thing. You go because… well, you never know which useful people you might bump into, and what interesting things you might hear about. Plus a colleague Janet Hughes was going, and I’d cleared my desk of essential work for the week. Here are a few takeaway thoughts from my afternoon. 1. I barely knew anyone It’s years since I was a fish in a geeky pool, active in the free culture movement, the KDE community, software patent activism and other odds and sods. For the past five years or so I’ve moved onto land, or perhaps a coral reef, to be more involved with issues around the environment, housing and pay inequality. The past two or so have been working as a…

Read More Sitting around the data campfire

Being actively involved in my local branch of the Green Party means I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around carrying a map of a local ward. Almost nobody seems to know which ward they are in, often because the names are a bit abstract (e.g. “The Lane” in Peckham, which I presume is because “Rye Lane” runs through the middle) or because almost nobody would say they live in the area described (e.g. “Peckham Rye”, which has Peckham Rye Common and Park in the middle and includes areas normally thought to be part of East Dulwich and Nunhead). Since the Ordnance Survey published open data, including political boundaries, it’s been possible to put this information into OpenStreetMap. I’ve finally bothered to start doing this for Southwark – you can see the results on this nice ITO map. Unfortunately the default map on the OpenStreetMap homepage draws the names of…

Read More Problems and possibilities with ward boundaries

I was contacted recently by a parent campaigning for a local school to ensure its admissions policy is properly applied. Over-subscribed schools like this one are a common source of frustration and worry up and down the country. Here’s the rub. Which of these two homes would you say is closer to the school, and therefore more likely to secure a place?  By the way, I’m not sure that the location on the left actually is within the catchment area, it’s just a place I randomly chose to illustrate the coming point… Parents at the location on the right were told they were too far from the school. The method they use to calculate safe distances to the school actually suggests that the location on the right is farther away than the location on the left! Why? Because they are calculating distances using a model that measures the distance as if you are…

Read More Why map data sometimes matters

One of the annoying things about open data is that you often need ninja skills to do anything with it. OpenStreetMap contains a wealth of geodata, but most tools make you jump through several steps involving the command line and all manner of data wrangling just to produce a custom map. Maperitive tries to make it much easier to create nice looking maps. It has been in gestation since late 2007, and is now close to being easy to use. It took me about half an hour of playing around to produce my first nice hiking map of Snowdon, although a problem with NASA’s elevation data led me on a frustrating journey to get Ordnance Survey open data in there to fill the gaps. I also had to work out Maperitive’s settings file for the way features are drawn to make the maps look a little neater and, well, British.…

Read More Making open data maps the almost-easy way

This is the first of perhaps two or three short essays inspired by Emer Coleman‘s masters dissertation on open data, written in a personal capacity and not as part of my job. In this post I want to look at what her proposed model of “iterative and adaptive open government” would mean for scrutiny of the Mayor of London. Her dissertation considers the difference between the New Public Management approach, characterised by public managers setting the goals and other public managers auditing their performance, and an emerging “Open Governance” approach using open data.

Read More Open scrutiny in the age of open data

I’ve written a guest blog over at the London Datastore about efforts to provide really good open data through OpenStreetMap. My main example is my work on OpenEcoMaps, which mixes imported (and checked) open data with crowdsourced OpenStreetMap data to provide a great environmental geodata resource. My concluding hope? That “this will spur growing interest amongst data hoarders in data collaboration rather than plain old data dumps.” Have a read.

Read More Can crowdsourcing improve open data?

Andy Allan’s excellent post on cycle campaigning reminded me to blog about some mapping help I’ve given a campaign group called the Elephant Amenity Network. One of their long-running issues has been the clearance and demolition of the unfairly maligned Heygate Estate, over 1000 council homes that should have been refurbished for council tenants instead of being knocked down for aspiring home owners to move into the area. One of the best features of the Heygate Estate is the urban forest that has grown there in the past thirty or forty years. But the few remaining residents and local campaigners fear the “regeneration” will see many or even most of them cut down. Through a friend who is involved with the campaign, I came along to help them map the trees that are there now. Knowing what you have seems like a good first step to saving it. So I…

Read More Maps, open data and activism on the Heygate estate

I’m happy to announce that OpenEcoMaps is now stable and ready for use, albeit with a few wrinkles that I hope some more able hackers can help me iron out. OpenEcoMaps takes data about “eco” (green / sustainable) features stored in OpenStreetMap and turns them into KML files that are shown as overlays on the map, making it easy for people to find out where they can get a vegetarian meal, forage some wild fruit, spot a solar panel, recycle a can, pick up a car club car, or spend some money in a cinema. You can use these KML files on your own map, or in Google Earth; you can embed the OpenEcoMaps map in your own web site; or you can just browse around the site. At the moment there are packs of overlays for London and Exeter, but I can quite easily add other local areas with any…

Read More Announcing OpenEcoMaps to geeks