We map because

Incidence of road name suffixes in London by Giuseppe Sollazzo (Source: OpenStreetMap)

A few weeks ago my good friend Giuseppe Sollazzo published some maps that he had been working on. The first in the series was a thematic map of London coloured by the road name suffix (i.e. Street, Road, Avenue, etc.), a whole series of these maps appeared soon afterwards including Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.

My immediate response was “why would you do that?”, I couldn’t see the point and felt that while they were kind of pretty they were pointless. Giuseppe replied “Having fun with maps needs a point? :)” to which I can only respond “Fair enough”, he also explained “But ultimately… Learning to use OSMnx is potentially useful down the line to do road networks analysis. So this little exercise is purely aesthetic, but who knows…”

I still wasn’t convinced but then I can be a bit grouchy about maps. Then Keir Clarke chipped in and shed light on what might be the insight of these maps.

You can view Kier’s thoughts on the distribution of streets and roads here. In summary Street is a much older appendage than Road and consequently highlighting Streets may indicate the historic origins of a city.

“Now we’ve zoomed out on the map of London we can clearly see that the medieval centre of the city is dominated by red roads called Street. However in the newer parts of London, in the areas which mostly emerged after the 16th Century, there are far more blue streets which are called Road”


Once you have Keir’s hypothesis in mind you can look at all of Giuseppe’s maps and start to see a pattern. A personal preference would be to change the colour scheme to make the Street colour the dominant colour to help convey the message.

The response to these maps has been quite astonishing, unlike me, masses of people seem to have loved them. Several people were inspired by Giuseppe’s maps to use his scripts to make maps of their own cities.

If you want to buy a high res A2 print of Giuseppe’s London map you can get it here, other cities are due to follow. They will make lovely gifts for the mappy person in your life.

So I was wrong! There was a point to this exercise. Sometimes you just have to make a map for the sake of having fun making maps and experimenting and perhaps you will find something interesting. Well played Giuseppe!