A few months ago I posted about being aware of what of your surroundings you could reach within 60 or 90 minutes by car or public transport. Towards the end of that posting I posted a map of my reach from home for 60 and 90 minutes. It was a bit of work to find a service that could make such isochrone maps for me.

Today Open Street Map volunteer Rory pointed to CommuteTimeMap which provides isochrone maps for any location in the world, based on Open Street Map. That’s very cool.

Of course I immediately compared CommuteTimeMap with the maps I had made before. What I used before didn’t allow for doing this for public transport (just walking and cars iirc), and CommuteTimeMap does. However the underlying data about public transport may be incomplete (just buses perhaps), as the map for 60 mins of public transport shows a very limited range, where the actual range is more or less the full size of the image (Zwolle, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Apeldoorn, Ede all within range). Or it simply isn’t set up for multimodal transport, and it assumes I’d take public transport from the bus stop nearest to me, where in reality I would cycle the 7 minutes it takes to the nearest railway station. Taking the bus to the railway station would cost significantly more time.


my 60 min public transport range, according to OSM, more pessimistic than in reality

On the other hand, the map for my reach by car in 60 minutes seems a little bit optimistic, covering most of what on my previously made map is shown for 90 minutes of driving. In general it provides a similar contour though, and a lot more detail (such as excluding car free national parks).


my 60 min driving range, according to OSM


my 60 and 90 min driving range, according to what I previously used

I’m definitely using this from now on.

When I made a visit to East Berlin a few years before the wall came down, my teenage eyes wondered about shopping and customer service.

To visit a bookstore near Alexanderplatz I had to stand in line. There were only a handful of shopping baskets available, and they were mandatory, so you stood in line until someone left the shop and returned the basket. I stood there for a while, and then with a basket could browse the shelves. There were less than ten people in the shop. While many more stood outside waiting.

Visiting a cafe with two others, the tables were all the same size, only the number of chairs at each table differed. We were three. A table with two chairs was free. Next to it was a man on his own, I remember he wore a leather jacket sipping coffee and reading a paper, at a table with three chairs. We asked if we could have a chair, and pull it up to our table. “Na klar”, he said. We looked at the menu. No service came. We waited. No service came. I went up to the waitress and asked if she could take our order. No, she said, “you’re with three people on a table for two so you’re not getting served.” I was stunned. I tried logic, “look the tables are all the same size!”, but failed. In the end we returned a chair to the table with the guy in the leather jacket and asked him to trade tables. He picked up his coffee and newspaper (it was the 80’s remember), and sat at our original table, while we moved to his. Within seconds the waitress was with us to take our lunch orders.

For years I shared these anecdotes as examples of how odd it all was during that visit to East Germany.

Fast forward 33 years, to our pandemic times.

In our neighbhourhood most shops have introduced a system of mandatory baskets. They use it to cap the number of clients in the store to the maximum they can accomodate within the 1.5m distancing guidelines. Outside others wait their turn.

From next week cafes and restaurants can open again, and I see and read how those here in town are arranging same sized tables out on the market square, varying the number of chairs to make it all work, and setting tables inside for specific numbers of people to stay within max allowed capacity.

After 33 years I need to retire my anecdotes from 1980’s East Berlin it seems. It wasn’t odd, it was avant garde!

East Berlin 1987
Walking down Friedrichstrasse in East Berlin, in 1987

The Guardian has been playing with data that TomTom navigation software collects on congestion, the traffic index. The article has a range of graphs for cities worldwide, showing how city traffic is reduced due to various measures trying to stem the pandemic.

At the bottom of the article is a small search box where you can get the graphs for cities not mentioned in the article.
TomTom’s index contains it seems quite a few Dutch cities, perhaps because it’s a Dutch company. So I went ahead and grabbed a few screenshots for Dutch cities, amongst which my hometown.

TomTom sells services on the data they collect, so there doesn’t seem to be anything available to download for yourself. They do have a similar search tool on their site which gives slightly different perspectives on the data they have. Below for Amersfoort the traffic density for the past week. It basically shows us what we feel outside: every day is like Sunday traffic.

The bee hives next to our chalet in a French ski resort are buzzing with activity, due to the very nice spring weather. No flowers in sight though, just melting snow.

One landed right in front of me on the balcony’s edge.

St Sorlin d'Arves

St Sorlin d'Arves

For the 12th year in a row I’ve send out Kiva Cards as Christmas gifts to clients. As many of the people I and our company work with are civil servants, it isn’t acceptable to give them anything of value. That’s why in the first year I worked independently I decided on a Christmas gift to business relations that doesn’t carry any risk of challenging the receiver’s integrity, nor mine as the giver.

That gift is a Kiva Card, a voucher for 25 USD. They’re perfect for my purpose. The gift can only be accepted by giving it away again. Kiva is a microcredit platform, where you can lend small amounts to entrepreneurs and others in developing countries. To use the card you have to apply it to a microcredit. Over time you get repaid and then you can lend it out again. If you do not use the card, it will become a charitable donation automatically after a year. In each case someone else will benefit, not the receiver or the giver.

My work is in open data mostly, and my interest in technology is about enabling more (networked) agency. In both those cases freely sharing is the starting point to create the potential benefits. Kiva Cards only can be used by sharing them again too, and turn into a donation if you don’t use them.

So these Kiva Cards are perfectly aligned with the spirit of my work, can’t call my or the receiver’s integrity into question, yet the joy of a gift remains.

Over time I’ve made over 300 microcredit contributions myself, forever re-using the funds I put in. I’ve especially tried to make meaningful loans in countries and regions where I’ve worked, in Central Asia, and non-EU Eastern Europe for instance, and most if not all to women.

It’s easy to join Kiva and start supporting an entrepreneur somewhere around the world

Screenshot of some of the people with Kiva microcredits I’ve contributed to