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All streets of NL

Okay, I know, I’m late to the party. I just happened to (re)stumble upon Ben Fry’s 2008 iteration of ‘All the streets in the USA’. I looked at this image a couple of years ago and was amazed at how much detail one can find using only one type of feature. It would seem obvious because roads, as human-made features, would have been constructed with natural barriers in mind. Some mountains are just too steep to climb or rivers to wide to cross. These natural features, which were actually not visualized directly, were visible by the absence of roads.

Ever since I found the image I have been searching for an all streets version of my native country (the Netherlands). I haven’t been able to find one. Given the availability and high quality of open data nowadays I thought I would give making one myself a go.

How to 

The data I used is regular OSM data downloaded from GeoFabrik. For those who aren’t familiar with this site, it hosts data of roads, water natural elements etc. based on OSM data. This data can then be downloaded in several formats. I downloaded all the roads found in the Netherlands, the data had been updated just a couple of hours before I downloaded it!

I downloaded the data and rendered it in QGIS. I exported several prints and stitched these together to create one super high resolution image (44781×44638) to be exact. Sounds pretty straight forward however as I don’t usually work with files this large I found that my hardware wasn’t exactly up to the task…. Through some connections I was able to use a faster PC and I was finally able to render the final result which you can see below. The file is best viewed fullscreen on Gigapan’s website.

Some observations

This map is positively tiny compared to its US equivalent. Where Ben Fry had to process over 240 million road segments, I came up just short of 1.5 million segments. However when compared with total surface of the country the Netherlands ends up with around 35 road segments per km2 and the USA with 24,4 road segments per km2. The difference in population and thus road density also becomes apparent. The US has massive stretches of nothingness where in the Netherlands you can barely travel a mile without stumbling upon another road. This of course has much to do with the differing physical geography of the countries. Obviously the US has more mountains and rugged terrain which results in more open areas.

allstreets-for-web-003 Alle straten NLStitching  (Custom)


The last part about physical geography got me thinking. Us Dutch have always had a love-hate relationship with water and we are intrinsically bonded to it. So I think an appropriate next step would be to map all of the water bodies in the Netherlands!


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