Mapping Census data from Newcastle commuters

In my current Research Associate role at the Institute for Health and Society, I’m working with a lot of data on travel behaviour, traffic flow and traffic accidents. As part of this, I’ve been having fun mapping Census data on how people travel to work. Since the data are publicly available, it would be a shame not to share some of the interactive maps I’ve built. So here they are. You can open the publicly available interactive maps by clicking on the screenshots below.

The data are organised by Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOAs – read more about ONS geographies here) and the maps were built using Google Fusion Tables, by uploading a CSV of the 2011 Census data on Travel to Work and combining it with a KML file of the boundaries of the LSOAs in Newcastle Upon Tyne, which I created myself. For an introduction to how to create maps using Fusion Tables, go here.

Map 1 – people travelling to work by bus

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those living within a few miles of Newcastle city centre, but not in it, were most likely to travel to work by bus. The proportion of people travelling by bus also tends to be higher in the more economically deprived parts of the city.

Percent travelling by bus


Map 2 – people travelling to work by underground, metro, light rail or tram

No big surprises here. A greater proportion of people reported travelling to work by underground, metro, light rail or tram in the LSOAs with, or near, metro stations.

Percent travelling by metro

Map 3 – people travelling to work by train

As with the other maps, the raw numbers are small, but the greater proportions of the available commuter populations are travelling by train in those LSOAs near central station.

Percent travelling by train

Map 4 – people travelling to work by taxi

Once more, the numbers are small, but I was surprised to see that anyone at all travels to work by taxi. Furthermore, there was a higher proportion of self-reported taxi commuters in the more economically deprived areas of Newcastle. Perhaps these people are taxi drivers?

Percent travelling by taxi

Map 5 – people travelling to work by motorbike

Bikers don’t appear to be numerous in Newcastle, nor does their distribution take on a discernible pattern. However, the biker stronghold of Newcastle seems to be in Coxlodge, where the proportion of people who report getting to work by motorbike reaches its zenith at 1.3%.

Percent travelling by motorbike

Map 6 – people travelling to work by car

The car commute is, of course, the most common. The numbers are high and increase with distance from the city centre, while driving sees its nadir at 17.07%, in the LSOA next to Newcastle Central Station.

Percent travelling by car

Map 7 – people travelling to work as passengers in cars

People getting to work in other peoples’ cars are fewer than those driving themselves.  Interestingly, the patterns also appear to be different, with a higher proportion of car passengers coming from LSOAs at intermediate distances from the city centre.

Percent travelling as car passengers

Map 8 – people who get to work by bicycle

As with many other modes of transport, bar the car, the numbers of people reporting bicycle use are low. However, the higher proportions do seem to be in inner-city LSOAs with thriving student populations.

Percent travelling by bicycle

Map 9 – those who walk to work

Unsurprisingly, the proportions of people walking to work are greatest in the city centre and decrease with distance from the city. However, peak walking proportions are at 49.48% and can be seen in the LSOA adjacent to my place of work.

Percent walking to work

Map 10 – people travelling by other means

These people travelling by “other means” are somewhat of a mystery. The 2011 Census Analysis on Method of Travel to Work in England and Wales Report reported that, “all of the English regions and Wales had less than 1 per cent of people commuting by other means (such as by ferry).” So the 2.88% travelling by other means in Newcastle upon Tyne 024B are an intriguing group. This LSOA is mainly park land, north of the city centre. There is no large body of water in the area, so the ONS assertion that, “ferry and hovercraft services are likely to make up the majority of the other means of commuting to work”, doesn’t explain this particular group of commuters. Perhaps they’re commuting by skateboard, by zip wire, on horseback, or by mobility scooter? Answers on a postcard please.

Percent travelling by other means

Highlights from the first meeting of the International Society for Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health

I recently enjoyed the privilege of speaking at the inaugural meeting of the International Society of Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health. The event included a spread of fascinating talks on topics from trade-offs in cancer susceptibility to the evolution of sleep. I have highlighted a few of the talks here, but there were lots more excellent talks and some of the videos can be found on Vimeo (others should be available soon).

I highly recommend joining the society: more information at

“What is a Disease?” by Ruslav Medzhitov, Yale University


“Shining evolutionary light on human sleep and sleep disorders” by Charles Nunn, Duke University


“The perils of plasticity” by Randolph Nesse, Arizona State University

Learning about Public Health in the Local Government context

As part of a scheme run by the Newcastle University Faculty of Medical Sciences Graduate School, I am currently enjoying the privilege of being a visiting postdoc with the Newcastle City Council Public Health Team.

I have2012-11-17 16.39.04 learned a vast amount in my first few weeks. I have witnessed a small team with a large portfolio, doing some heroic work. They deal with everything from the classic issues such as obesity, sexual health, smoking, and alcohol and drug use, to wider determinants of health including active transport, pollution and parks. They juggle the local politics of councillors, which can require a short-medium term outlook, with the priorities of Public Health, which are necessarily long term ones. All of this is done in the context of budget cuts and increased pressure from seasonal issues such as flu, and novel concerns such as Ebola. No easy task.

I intend to use this experience to learn how to make my future research more useful to policy makers and public health practitioners. As part of the experience, I will document my learning in my blogs and in my tweets.


My second guest blog: Things I wish I’d known before beginning my first fellowship application

Having recently completed my first ever fellowship application (by no means an easy process), I was asked by the Newcastle Careers Service to write another guest blog. I hope that, by sharing my learning, I can help other early career researchers who are planning their first fellowship applications.

Videos: Why should medics care about evolution?

A friend of mine, the wonderful Thomas Carpenter, is currently studying medicine at Edinburgh University. He is part of a group of medical students with an interest in evloution, who are calling themselves the Evolutionary Medics.

The Evolutionary Medics recently ran an event, which was entitled “Bringing Darwin back to Edinburgh: wine, cheese and evolutionary medicine.” The excellent presentations are now available to view on YouTube and I wanted to promote them here:

Dr Sam Brown – Can we make evolution proof drugs?

Prof Gillian Bentley – The Clinical Significance of Evolutionary Medicine


New book out now!

Applied Evolutionary Anthropology: Darwinian Approaches to Contemporary World Issues

AEA Book Cover

This book has been published as the first of a series, Advances in the Evolutionary Analysis of Human Behaviour, edited by Rebecca Sear. The series is intended “to promote the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association tenets of rigour, integration and pluralism by producing a series of methodologically rigorous books with a pluralistic theme in the human behavioral sciences.”

This volume was edited by Mhairi Gibson and David Lawson. I am proud to have made my contribution, along with with Daniel Nettle:

Chapter 10Socioeconomic Disparities in Health Behaviour: An Evolutionary Perspective.

Video: Being there (talk at the ESRC Festival)

Being there: a brief visit to a neighbourhood induces the social attitudes of that neighbourhood

Here is a video of one my recent talks as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science event, “Using social sciences to tackle the toxicity of urban life”. The video just gives footage of me talking, so you will need to download the slides as a PDF here: beingtherepresentationslides.pdf.

The publication associated with this presentation can be found at: