Notes on making Leaflet maps in R

The other day I wrote a blog post for crimrxiv about posting interactive graphics on their pre-print sharing service. I figured it would be good to share my notes on making interactive maps, and to date I’ve mostly created these using the R leaflet library.

The reason I like these interactive maps is they allow you to zoom in and look at hot spots of crime. With the slippy base maps you can then see, oh OK this hot spot is by a train station, or an apartment complex, etc. It also allows you to check out specific data labels via pop-ups as I will show.

I’m using data from my paper on creating cost of crime weighted hot spots in Dallas (that will be forthcoming in Police Quarterly soonish). But I have posted a more direct set of replicating code for the blog post here.

R Code

So first for the R libraries I am using, I also change the working directory to where I have my data located on my Windows machine.

##########################################################
#This code creates a nice leaflet map of my DBSCAN areas

library(rgdal)       #read in shapefiles
library(sp)          #spatial objects
library(leaflet)     #for creating interactive maps
library(htmlwidgets) #for exporting interactive maps

#will need to change baseLoc if replicating on your machine
baseLoc <- "D:\\Dropbox\\Dropbox\\Documents\\BLOG\\leaflet_R_examples\\Analysis"
setwd(baseLoc)
##########################################################

Second, I read in my shapefiles using the rgdal library. This is important, as it includes the projection information. To plot the spatial objects on a slippy map they need to be in the Web Mercator projection (or technically no projection, just a coordinate reference system for the globe). As another trick I like with these basemaps, for the outlined area (the Dallas boundary here), it is easier to plot as a line spatial object, as opposed to an empty filled polygon. You don’t need to worry about the order of the layers as much that way.

##########################################################
#Get the boundary data and DBSCAN data
boundary <- readOGR(dsn="Dallas_MainArea_Proj.shp",layer="Dallas_MainArea_Proj")
dbscan_areas <- readOGR(dsn="db_scan.shp",layer="db_scan")

#Now convert to WGS
DalLatLon <- spTransform(boundary,CRS("+init=epsg:4326"))
DallLine <- as(DalLatLon, 'SpatialLines') #Leaflet useful for boundaries to be lines instead of areas
dbscan_LatLon <- spTransform(dbscan_areas,CRS("+init=epsg:4326") )

#Quick and Dirty plot to check projections are OK
plot(DallLine)
plot(dbscan_LatLon,add=TRUE,col='blue')
##########################################################

Next part, I have a custom function I have made to make pop-up labels for these leaflet maps. First I need to read in a table with the data info for the hot spot areas and merge that into the spatial object. Then the way my custom function works is I pass it the dataset, then I have arguments for the variables I want, and the way I want them labeled. The function does the work of making the labels bolded and putting in line breaks into the HTML. (No doubt others have created nice libraries to do HTML tables/graphs inside the pop-ups that I am unaware of.) If you check out the final print statement, it shows the HTML it built for one of the labels, <strong>ID: </strong>1<br><strong>$ (Thousands): </strong>116.9<br><strong>PAI: </strong>10.3<br><strong>Street Length (Miles): </strong>0.4

##########################################################
#Function for labels

#read in data
crime_stats <- read.csv('ClusterStats_wlen.csv', stringsAsFactors=FALSE)
dbscan_stats <- crime_stats[crime_stats$type == 'DBSCAN',]
dbscan_stats$clus_id <- as.numeric(dbscan_stats$AreaStr) #because factors=False!

#merge into the dbscan areas
dbscan_LL <- merge(dbscan_LatLon,dbscan_stats)

LabFunct <- function(data,vars,labs){
  n <- length(labs)
  add_lab <- paste0("<strong>",labs[1],"</strong>",data[,vars[1]])
  for (i in 2:n){
    add_lab <- paste0(add_lab,"<br><strong>",labs[i],"</strong>",data[,vars[i]])
  }
  return(add_lab)
}

#create labels
vs <- c('AreaStr', 'val_th', 'PAI_valth_len', 'LenMile')
#Lazy, so just going to round these values
for (v in vs[-1]){
  dbscan_LL@data[,v] <- round(dbscan_LL@data[,v],1)
}  
lb <- c('ID: ','$ (Thousands): ','PAI: ','Street Length (Miles): ')
diss_lab <- LabFunct(dbscan_LL@data, vs, lb)

print(diss_lab[1]) #showing off just one
##########################################################

Now finally onto the hotspot map. This is a bit to chew over, so I will go through bit-by-bit.

##########################################################
HotSpotMap <- leaflet() %>%
  addProviderTiles(providers$OpenStreetMap, group = "Open Street Map") %>%
  addProviderTiles(providers$CartoDB.Positron, group = "CartoDB Lite") %>%
  addPolylines(data=DallLine, color='black', weight=4, group="Dallas Boundary") %>%
  addPolygons(data=dbscan_LL,color = "blue", weight = 2, opacity = 1.0, 
              fillOpacity = 0.5, group="DBSCAN Areas",popup=diss_lab, 
              highlight = highlightOptions(weight = 5,bringToFront = TRUE)) %>%
  addLayersControl(baseGroups = c("Open Street Map","CartoDB Lite"),
                   overlayGroups = c("Dallas Boundary","DBSCAN Areas"),
                   options = layersControlOptions(collapsed = FALSE))  %>%
  addScaleBar(position = "bottomleft", options = scaleBarOptions(maxWidth = 100, 
              imperial = TRUE, updateWhenIdle = TRUE))
                      
HotSpotMap #this lets you view interactively

#or save to a HTML file to embed in webpage
saveWidget(HotSpotMap,"HotSpotMap.html", selfcontained = TRUE)
##########################################################

First I create the empty leaflet() object. Because I am superimposing multiple spatial layers, I don’t worry about setting the default spatial layer. Second, I add in two basemap providers, OpenStreetMap and the grey scale CartoDB positron. Positron is better IMO for visualizing global data patterns, but the open street map is better for when you zoom in and want to see exactly what is around a hot spot area. Note when adding in a layer, I give it a group name. This allows you to later toggle which provider you want via a basegroup in the layers control.

Next I add in the two spatial layers, the Dallas Boundary lines and then the hot spots. For the DBSCAN hot spots, I include a pop-up diss_lab for the dbscan hot spot layer. This allows you to click on the polygon, and you get the info I stuffed into that label vector earlier. The HTML is to make it print nicely.

Finally then I add in a layers control, so you can toggle layers on/off. Basegroups mean that only one of the options can be selected, it doesn’t make sense to have multiple basemaps selected. Overlay you can toggle on/off as needed. Here the overlay doesn’t matter much due to the nature of the map, but if you have many layers (e.g. a hot spot map and a choropleth map of demographics) being able to toggle the layers on/off helps a bit more.

Then as a final touch I add in a scale bar (that automatically updates depending on the zoom level). These aren’t my favorite with slippy maps, as I’m not even 100% sure what location the scale bar refers to offhand (the center of the map? Or literally where the scale bar is located?) But when zoomed into smaller areas like a city I guess it is not misleading.

Here is a screenshot of this created map zoomed out to the whole city using the Positron grey scale base map. So it is tough to visualize the distribution of hot spots from this. If I wanted to do that in a static map I would likely just plot the hot spot centroids, and then make the circles bigger for areas that capture more crime.

But since we can zoom in, here is another screenshot zoomed in using the OpenStreetMap basemap, and also illustrating what my pop-up labels look like.

I’m too lazy to post this exact map, but it is very similar to one I posted for my actual hot spots paper if you want to check it out directly. I host it on GitHub for free.

Here I did not show how to make a choropleth map, but Jacob Kaplan in his R book has a nice example of that. And in the future I will have to update this to show how to do the same thing in python using the Folium library. I used Folium in this blog post if you want to dig into an example though for now.

Some more examples

For some other examples of what is possible in Leaflet maps in R, here are some examples I made for my undergrad Communities and Crime class. I had students submit prediction assignments (e.g. predict the neighborhood with the most crime in Dallas, predict the street segment in Oak Cliff with the most violent crime, predict the bar with the most crimes nearby, etc.) I would then show the class the results, as well as where other students predicted. So here are some screen shots of those maps.

Choropleth

Graduated Points

Street Segment Viz

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1 Comment

  1. Notes on making scatterplots in matplotlib and seaborn | Andrew Wheeler

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