Central London Walking Network conference report

St Martin’s Lane reimagined as part of a Central London Walking Network

“The zeitgeist is changing. The politics of the street are changing. People are asking how we want to live.”

Nicholas Boys Smith, Create Streets

This was Boys Smith, one of the chairs at the Central London Walking Network conference on 28 November, responding to the energy, ideas and enthusiasm in the room. The event, organised with Urban Design Group, was a turning point in London Living Street’s campaign for a dense web of walking routes connecting major destinations in Central London.

The event brought together a broad audience and an inspirational set of speakers with radical ideas. Those presentations are summarised in detail here with a brief summary below.

‘Nothing less than a London cultural revolution will do.  We have the political will to recognise that our streets are for people, families, children and the less able first, not vehicles. They are public realm, not rat runs.’

Oliver Sells QC, City of London
  • Will Norman expressed his support for the CLWN and its role in tackling London’s inactivity crisis.
  • Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for a Sustainable Camden described the inspirational projects underway in Camden including the West End Project (nearing completion) and Brunswick Square Gardens (beginning next year). The CLWN is already in the Camden Transport Strategy and he’s walked the routes with London Living Streets members.
  • Oliver Sells QC received a ringing round of applause as he outlined the City of London plans and his vision of a city for walking.
  • Not to be outdone, Tim Mitchell, City of Westminster described the council’s proposals, including the transformation of the Strand
  • But the important next step is to link all these improvements together – hence, as John Dales from Urban Movement said, the need for walking networks. Connections are an important criteria for determining the “walkability” of an area, Dales added, referring to Tim Pharaoh’s 5Cs of walking: connected, comfortable, convenient, convivial and conspicuous.
  • But you also have to navigate the network, and who better to address the fundamentals than Kate Jeffery, Professor of Neuroscience at UCL and part of the Cognitive Navigation Group (CogNav). It is remarkable what neuroscience can tell us about our sense of place, and sense of direction.
  • In other sessions, Esther Kurland from Urban Design London had attendees working on potential routes.
  • If you lined up all London’s parked cars end-to-end they would stretch from London to New York, said Joe Wills from Centre for London.  

But the key to establishing the Central London Walking Network is networking. We were delighted to see so many important stakeholders brought together and talking to each.  London really is changing.

A longer summary of the presentations is available here.

More information on the Central London Walking Network and some draft routes is here.

Please keep in touch if you’d like to help shape this simple yet groundbreaking idea.

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