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Six routes that take a mile to go 50 feet

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  January 24, 2010 09:49 AM

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Among American cities, Boston is notorious for being difficult to get around, especially by car. This isn’t just civic myth - in fact, a 2004 study by city-livability expert Bert Sperling named Boston by far the “most challenging” large city to navigate in the United States, based on factors such as its street layout, congestion, and inconveniently placed bodies of water.

I moved to Cambridge from the more orderly Midwest in 2008 and was struck by how the area’s peculiar street network - especially in the so-called squares that anchor local neighborhoods - can make it so complicated to drive between two points that are nearly next to each other.

As a cartographer, I naturally wanted to see what the most circuitous of these routes look like on maps. Based on experience and some searching, I came up with a few. Stripped of their street names and landmarks, they become almost an abstract diagram of frustration and confusion - and a pretty good case for walking.

Andrew Woodruff is a Cambridge-based cartographer for Axis Maps. This article was adapted from his blog,

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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