Accessibility of Cities Around the World

Created in an effort to assess inequalities in accessibility, these amazing new maps show travel times to the nearest urban centre in different parts of the world.

team at the University of Oxford led by Dr. Daniel Weiss used Open Street Map and Google to collate travel times to cities and produce this astonishing visual representation of inequalities in commuting, from the USA and Australia through China and India to the Central African Republic and Mali. All photographs: Daniel Weiss and Jennifer Rozier, Malaria Atlas Project, University of Oxford.

Due to the high density of urban centres in Britain and Ireland, accessibility is largely unimpeded (as indicated by light colours). Only in the highlands of Scotland do travel times increase (as indicated by dark colours).

Nearly 91% of people in high-income countries live within one hour of a city, compared to almost 51% of people in low-income countries. India’s high population and large number of cities complicate this picture.

The map for the Central African Republic shows a more typical correlation between low income and inaccessibility. With the only two urban centres located on the southwestern side of the country, the east remains largely remote.

With urban centres located along the coastline, Australia displays what Weiss calls a ‘vast, dark middle’ through the outback. For a high-income nation, accessibility to all areas of the country is limited. Nevretheless, routes to the busiest cities are numerous.

Despite the lack of large urban centres in areas like Nebraska, the US has a ‘remarkable infrastructure’, says Weiss. Unlike Australia, both rural areas and cities are well-connected.

The dataset used for China was unique inasmuch as it relied solely on Open Street Map, due to restrictions on accessing Google data. The population is densely concentrated in the east where accessibility is increased, whereas rural provinces in the west remain remote.

The large roads carving through the borders of the Amazon display the correlation between infrastructure and deforestation in Brazil. Proximity to urban centres has a protective effect on forests, as deforestation mostly occurs one to five hours’ of travel time from cities.

With an overwhelmingly urban population – one of the highest of the countries analysed – Saudi Arabia has some of the longest travel times to city centres, and is thus an exception to the relationship between high income and accessibility.

In Egypt, urban centres are located along the banks of the Nile, forming a virtual map of the river itself, with the desert in the west of the country being especially remote.

Much like the Central African Republic, accessibility in Mali is limited to a handful of urban centres, with the desert in the country’s north a vast swathe of inaccessibility.

Scandinavian nations are some of the least accessible among western European countries. In Sweden and Norway, woodlands in the north have limited infrastructure.

Perhaps the most well-connected of the European nations, the Benelux states provide a stark contrast to countries such as Mali. Virtually all urban centres in these three high-income countries can be reached within one hour.

Source: The Guardian

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