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New map plots where people run in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / February 7, 2014

Toronto run mapThose who share my predisposition for unique maps of Toronto will likely take interest in the latest series from Nathan Yau at Flowing Data. In it, he uses publicly available GPS data from RunKeeper, which thousands of runners use to track their workouts across the globe. What emerges in these maps are the desires lines of those users of the city who are typically looking 1) to avoid traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) and 2) for nice scenery.

It's thus not much of a surprise that runners gravitate to the waterfront -- both in Toronto and everywhere else. If it also appears that downtown-types run more often, the saturation of routes in the core likely has to do with both its increased density and the fact that some runners jog along downtown streets on their way to the Martin Goodman Trail. None of this is altogether that surprising, but it is fascinating to see a visualization of how a particular group navigates the city. It's anything but random.


Paris run mapParis

London run mapLondon

New York run mapNew York

San Francisco run mapSan Francisco

Miami run mapMiami

View all of Yau's maps at Flowing Data



Sure bud replying to a comment from Ryan / February 7, 2014 at 10:46 am
Or they're not a bunch of techy douchbags who need to buy gps trackers to track their runs. They probably just put on running shoes and clothes and just go for a run.
Dan / February 7, 2014 at 10:48 am
Apparently nobody runs in High Park...
ellietown / February 7, 2014 at 10:57 am
Its interesting, but deceptive, data. See that heavy line that goes from staten island north on bedford through brooklyn then queens, across the queensboro bridge, up 1st ave to the bronx then loops harlem down 5th ave around central park then into the park on the west? That's the NYC marathon route, not a daily run (a 42km one-way from staten island? an 85k out and back? Don't think so).
The Goodlife Toronto marathon route is easily spottable too (Yonge from Sheppard to Eg is not a run hotspot, i'd venture, despite this map), and yet it looks like noone ever runs Central of High Park.
Then again, I have a garmin, so i don't see the point of run keeper.....
Derek replying to a comment from ellietown / February 7, 2014 at 11:15 am
I think you see the same kind of thing along Yonge St., from various organized 10K runs and marathon routes.
Nathan / February 7, 2014 at 11:23 am
Interesting...but the gravitation towards running alongside the water is likely also due (in part) to it's safety rather just the scenery alone. I know in Toronto, especially during the winter, it's difficult to run through the city.
Eddie / February 7, 2014 at 11:38 am
So all we have learned from this is where all the owners of a RunKeeper live. I run often in High Park as do many others, more than I see in the downtown area when I lived at Yonge/Dundas. Had this included other forms of GPS tracking then perhaps it would be a little more interesting.
xRTGx / February 7, 2014 at 11:45 am
I call horseshit on this too. The loop in High Park should be one of the darker areas and yet there's nothing. People in that area of town are pretty big on outdoor fitness.

It's more likely that lazy people downtown are counting their walks to and from work as a workout, and tracking that with their phone to make themselves feel better about their shitty fitness routines.
ellietown / February 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm
Yep, the headline should read "here's where people who run with iPhones and use run keeper app and make their data public run". Now I am going out for a run in high park, where I'll be completely alone- hah!
iSkyscraper / February 7, 2014 at 01:05 pm
The data seems a bit flawed in that it is highly influenced by events like marathons where I suspect many runners are running the app.

The New York map, for example, is showing the marathon route as the heaviest desire line, but of course no one ever jogs the Gowanus Expressway except for the one day a year when 50,000 people do. The jogging action around the Central Park reservoir, a very heavily used route, does not even appear.

It's still a great map series, but it might be more accurately described as a map of marathon routes and places that young, downtown tech-savvy joggers go.
mike in parkdale / February 7, 2014 at 01:28 pm
trails > roads

This map seems incredibly flawed. There's barely any activity in High Park and nothing along the West Toronto Railpath? That makes me question the entire thing.
Sam I Am replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / February 7, 2014 at 02:14 pm
Hi Mike!
I wonder why no dark purple lines along boxcar routes?
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from Sam I Am / February 7, 2014 at 02:20 pm
Because I don't want the railyard bulls snooping on my boxcar cross training.
zab judah / February 7, 2014 at 03:40 pm
apparently quite a few people are running directly across the east river...
Kevo / February 7, 2014 at 10:34 pm
This is just a possibility I'm throwing out as someone who works with map data/GIS on why the areas outside of the downtown and its neighbouring areas don't have little to no data:

It's possible that the author simply chose a small sample area (in this case an area bounded Christie to the west, Bloor to the north, and the Don in the east). From this, any route that intersected this box was extracted and mapped out.

This seems like the most likely reason data outside of the downtown-ish neighbourhoods is missing.
Lev / February 8, 2014 at 02:51 am
Skyscraper - excellent comment.
Dee / February 8, 2014 at 08:10 am
Well, these are all great points. But we are all missing the giant middle finger that New York is giving us on this map. I think that says more than anything else.
Other Cities: Montreal