Bike routes to libraries in nyc

Lab Reports, Maps, Visualization
Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

In 2017, Brooklyn Public Library hosted Bike the Branches, a program in which the library encouraged patrons to visit multiple branches in one day by biking between the branches. Participants could get BPL passports stamped at each location, and activities were hosted at multiple branches. Additionally, maps were created on Google maps with suggested routes and bike tours for neighborhoods.

This event inspired me to create a map that showed which libraries were safe to bike to. While all branches can all be biked to, I wanted to look at libraries that were near bike lanes and would therefore be relatively safe to bike to.


Viz 1: Map provided by BKLYNER

Visualization 1 is a bike tour map of the BPL branches created on Google maps. It does not show all available bike routes to the branches but a specific route determined by the creator.

Viz 2 – Photo courtesy of National Association of City Transportation Officials

I think Visualization 2 is a very effective way of showing bike paths in an urban environment because it color codes them according to type of road. I also think the line width for the bike lands and map background colors are effective visual choices.


I used CARTO to create the map and the following data sets from NYC OpenData:

Methods and Results

I uploaded the data sets as GeoJSON files to Carto. The library locations data set is the main layer, and the bike routes were layered on top. I created a filter for the libraries by library system, so that users could focus on specific boroughs as well as see the total number of branches in each system. I originally tried to filter by borough code, but the data was entered in a way that did not have labels for each borough and was instead labeled as number from 1-5. By using the library systems as a filter, users can compare the number of branches in each system and see which branches are most accessible by bike.

I chose to include a pop-up box for each of the branches that included the name of the branch, the street name, the library system, and the branch’s website because I figured that users would want to know the details of the branch when they were deciding which one was easiest to bike to; for me, the website was essential because users would be able to check the hours of operation.

I played around a lot with colors and lines in order to find a style that was easiest to understand. I decided to use a basemap that included street and park details because bikes want to know what streets they will be using on their routes and whether they will be be crossing parks or major intersections. Because the basemap was so detailed, I decided to use a thicker black line to show the bike routes so that they would stand out clearly against the multicolored basemap that had white streets.


I think one of the major changes I would have made to the map would be to have made the bike routes data the main layer and added the library data on top. This would have made the library locations more visible in the areas where the bike routes are concentrated. With Carto, you have to choose your main layer during the initial creation of the map, and you can’t switch this layer unless you create an entirely new map. Overall, however, I think this map takes into consideration the needs of my intended audience, library users who want to bike to branches. It is a usable interactive map that provides enough information for users without overwhelming them with unnecessary information. I think the filtering and zooming options are especially useful for cyclists who are trying to plan specific routes.