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Let’s Walk London

By David Harrison

Featured in the FTL Newsletter, May 2022

Arriving at London’s mainline railway stations with their majestic, lofty roofs and amazing iron work is a joy. But leaving the train, most people are directed to the tube, bus or a taxi. If they decide to walk, apps often direct them down polluted main roads.

This is where Footways comes in. We have plotted routes that link destinations with the capital’s most attractive, quiet, green and appealing streets. With funding from TFL we published a paper map in 2020, which has been in high demand, and our basic online version has been viewed over one million times. The map is the first to present central London from a pedestrian perspective, showing how many journeys can be walked.

The next edition is being launched with a campaign, ‘Let’s Walk’, which promotes continuing journeys from stations on foot, to see the city unfold and arrive at destinations happier and healthier. This is ‘combo travel’, a term coined by Glenn Lyons and others in 2021, to describe to describe the integration of rail and walking as a form of travel, which supports health, public transport, decarbonisation and economic prosperity.

We have three key aims in the campaign. The first is to inform people that beyond the immediate environs of the stations are wonderful streets. In London, the many lanes of traffic on the Euston Road and inadequate crossings are a formidable obstacle. But dare to cross the road and beautiful Bloomsbury lies beyond. At Waterloo, there’s a chaos of steps, uneven pavements and a large roundabout that makes walking either inconvenient, or extremely onerous if you’re in a wheelchair. But once on the bridge there are fabulous views and then the new piazza on the Strand and the pedestrianised streets of Covent Garden.

Our second and related aim is to change mindsets. Our research has shown that most 15-minute walks in London don’t take much longer than a bus, taxi or tube trip, which most people choose. We want to shift habits. Public transport planning assumes people walk about 10 minutes from or to a train station. But walking 15 or 20 minutes would get you from Euston to the British Museum, Paddington to the Serpentine Gallery or Liverpool Street to Tate Modern.

Thirdly, we are campaigning for infrastructure improvement which is vital for integrating rail and walking. There are excellent examples. In Strasbourg and Nimes, the stations are surrounded by low-traffic or car-free piazzas and streets which provide easy access and vistas to the city. In Sheffield, the pedestrianised, tree-lined Howard Street draws you from the station to the city centre on foot. Organisations.

As well as republishing the second edition of the map, which Applied Information has redesigned, we have a new digital map on Mapbox. We’re working with more sponsors, which include Network Rail, who will distribute 10,000 free maps from its 11 mainline stations from 24th May. The map will also be on sale at a limited number of bookshops

We hope this collaboration with Network Rail is the beginning of long-term partnership to show what’s possible in combining walking and rail.

Follow us at @footwayslondon for updates about the launch.

David Harrison, co-founder of Footways


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