Isoscope is a new visualization tool that puts the limits of urban mobility on display. The project, from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam in Germany, visualizes how far a person can drive or walk from any specific destination in a maximum of 10 minutes, accounting for time of day and typical traffic conditions.
Each hour of the day gets a light cyan splotch of color that traces how much area you could cover in any direction at that time while driving. The royal blue color represents how far you could travel in the same amount of time—you choose a maximum travel time between two and 10 minutes—on foot. These colorful swatches, layered on top of each other, represent the potential of travel along the city grid throughout the day and the week, in cities all over the world. "We were especially intrigued by those situations when our mobility is compromised such as in traffic jams or during tough driving conditions," as Marin von Lupin, one of the project's creators, writes on his site.
For instance, from Fast Company's offices in downtown Manhattan, I could hop in a car and, at 10 a.m. on a Monday, drive the 2.7 miles across to Jersey City, making it just to the end of the Holland Tunnel within 10 minutes. Or, I could drive in the other direction, traveling 3.5 miles to the Williamsburg Bridge in the same amount of time. By foot, I could get only about half a mile in either direction. From my home in a more car-friendly stretch of Brooklyn, the shape of a 10-minute commute is notably more uniform—I could drive in about a three-mile radius in any direction.
Because of the way cities are built, the distribution of mobility is notably skewed in a way that hugs highways, where cars can travel much farther in a short period of time than on small city blocks punctuated by stoplights every 200 feet or so. In cities designed more with cars in mind than walking, like Los Angeles, the splotch of walking accessibility is dwarfed by how much ground you can cover in a car. In older cities, like London, the ratio is lower, since neighborhoods built for easy pedestrian mobility tend not to be as easy for a car to zip through unimpeded.
"As we think about traffic in cities as somewhat like the pulse of the city, Isoscope is an approach to capture this rhythm with its up and downs," von Lupin writes.
Try Isoscope here.