Clever Map Reveals Geography of Bernal Heights Coffee Shops


Some clever data-visualization geeks at MIT have created a very cool new map that reveals the social geography of San Francisco coffee shops. A Bernalwood-enhanced look at our portion of the map reveals which parts of Bernal align most organically with each of our local coffee shops:

This map shows the location of every independent coffee shop in San Francisco and the walking-shed community associated with it.

Independent coffee shops are positive markers of a living community. They function as social spaces, urban offices, and places to see the world go by. Communities are often formed by having spaces in which people can have casual interactions, and local and walkable coffee shops create those conditions, not only in the coffee shop themselves, but on the sidewalks around them. We use maps to know where these coffee shop communities exist and where, by placing new coffee shops, we can help form them.

We applied two steps to generate the data displayed by the map. First, we used the Google Places API to locate all coffee shops in a given city. Second, for each point in the map we queried the walking route and distance to its nearest coffee shop using the Google Distance Matrix API.

In the final map the colored areas represent a region which is walkable to a specific coffee shop (within one kilometer or 0.7 miles). The intensity of color at each point indicates its distance from its corresponding coffee shop.

Cool! But not perfect. The map was created by algorithms, not humans. So it reveals the logic of physical proximity, not social preference (thought the two often and naturally overlap). Also, the data might be a little old, because the transformative Cafe St. Jorge on Mission near Cortland is not present.

Nevertheless… cool!  Here’s how all of San Francisco looks without the Bernal annotations:


20 thoughts on “Clever Map Reveals Geography of Bernal Heights Coffee Shops

    • Was going to add that as well. Nice little spot.
      Also that place that no one will sell organic fruit to on Folsom.

      Unfortunately, all but two of these (Terra Mia and Precita Park Cafe) closes at or before 8pm. Not very coffee shop-like behavior.

  1. I strongly doubt that Coffee Shop’s zone extends that far up the StoCo Ridge. I know that the natural “walkingshed” takes me down to Precita Park Cafe.

  2. BOGUS: No Charlie’s, and yet Charlie’s has been there about 10 years, which is longer than most of the other cafes.

    So, if I’m correct about this, Google has been tracking people’s movements to and from various cafes, in order to create the colored fog that surrounds them. Does this worry anybody that Google has so much info about people?

    • not quite that creepy. it says they first worked out the set of all the independent coffee shops with Google Places. but then they worked out the walkingsheds by figuring out for each given point, what’s the closest independent coffee shop to it. they did use a Google tool to make that calculation, but it’s just geometry not Big Brother.

  3. I think we residents of Bernal Heights should reject this map! Small local chains, like Martha’s, should definitely be included.

  4. I could have filled out this map more accurately by walking for an hour and scratching down locations in crayon on a napkin. (They must be at MIT, since they certainly have not been here.)

    Occasionally, it’s still Human over Machine. Some tech wizardry is indeed very clever, even amazing and exciting.

    But when did human beings stop thinking that such gadgetry also had to be good, reliable, and useful? Awe is too often the offspring of lowered standards and its close cousin, abject ignorance.

Comments are closed.