ICYMI: Strava Labs Heatmaps of S.F. (and Burning Man)

Places where people jog, run, bike, or ride around in unnecessarily complicated steampunk art-car contraptions show up very brightly on Strava's maps.

Screenshot/Strava Labs

Earlier this week, S.F. fitness startup Strava released heatmaps generated by its app that makes use of the GPS in its users’ phones. The images are quite arresting, even though they raise concerns about personal privacy — Wired reported that the data is not anonymized, so dogged types can even find out someone’s heart rate — and even national security. (It’s easy to see details of where people walk most frequently inside of military bases and other installations, especially because soldiers are encouraged to use fitness trackers like Jawbone or Fitbit.)

This visually dazzling data dump also comes during the same week that the Pentagon announced it might follow the West Wing’s lead and ban personal cell phones from the building to avoid. But on the whole, the 13 trillion(!) data points generated between 2015 and 2017 reveal quite a bit about San Francisco. Places where people routinely jog, run, or bike — the Panhandle, Fort Mason, the base trail around Bernal Hill — are very bright, whereas Sixth Street is much, much dimmer than either Fifth or Seventh. Arguello Boulevard is bright, and compare Illinois Street (which has a bike lane) with much-dimmer Third Street one block west.

You can play with it on Strava Labs’ site, adjusting the color and “heat opacity” and controlling for different types of activities.

Look at Burning Man!

(Screen shot/Strava Labs)

It almost looks like the Pentagon — except, not really. Probably most Department of Defense workers know not to install apps like that.

(Screen shot/Strava Labs)


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