By Emma Griffin and David Harrison
In 1854, nine years before the arrival of the Underground, 400,000 people walked into the City of London every day. These walks weren’t the final leg of a journey from a mainline station, or within the centre: they were the entire commute.
Londoners still love to walk, of course (two thirds of all trips are walked in the Square mile). But we walk much shorter distances than our predecessors. Currently only 5% of commuter travel to the City is on foot. The average walk-all-the-way trip across London is less than 1km, according to TfL’s Strategic Walking Analysis.
This has got to change and fast. Walking more and further is critical to tackle our health, pollution and climate crises. It is also critical to avoid contagion and relieve pressure on roads and public transport as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
In September, London Living Streets and Urban Good, with funding from Transport for London, will launch Central London Footways: a printed and online map and information resource that will prompt Londoners and visitors to walk longer distances on everyday journeys. Check out the routes below and at https://footways.london.
The map illustrates a network of routes, devised by London Living Streets, that connects London’s mainline train stations, popular destinations and green spaces with the city’s most welcoming, appealing and accessible streets. This is about getting people from A to B, but in the most enjoyable and healthy way possible.
For journeys under 30 minutes, the walking journey is just a few minutes longer, or about the same time, as a journey on a train or taxi. It takes just 20 minutes to walk from Euston to the British Museum, compared to 17 minutes via the tube and 18 minutes in a cab. A walk from Waterloo to British Museum is slightly longer at 28 minutes, but this is only 10 minutes slower than the Underground or eight minutes slower than a taxi.
And any minutes lost are easily made up for in terms of health and wellbeing. A 20-minute walk burns 80 calories, adds 2,400 steps to the pedometer, clears the mind, promotes creative thoughts, reduces depression, helps digestion, lowers blood pressure and generally makes us feel fantastic. Walking has been described as a superpower.
A walk from Waterloo to the British Museum also gives Londoners and visitors the best experience of the city, passing some pretty amazing places including Somerset House, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Camden’s new transformation of the public space at Princes Circus.
Given all these perks, it is a pity that more than 3,000 people took the tube between Waterloo and Tottenham Court Road, near the British Museum, every day before the Covid-19 lockdown.
This is all about to change as a result of the changes TfL and boroughs are making in order to find more space for people walking and cycling as we emerge from the coronavirus lockdown. TfL, as part of its Streetspace for London plans, is widening pavements and councils including Camden, the City, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster are creating low-traffic corridors by closing residential streets to through-traffic. Footways will make sure Londoners make the most of these transformations.
Footways is the culmination of 18 months of work by London Living Streets who have walked the streets with residents, businesses, cultural organisations, councillors and officers to find the most efficient and attractive network. The work is supported by London’s inner London boroughs and a number of other organisations listed here.
The Footways map and design concept is by Urban Good and will be distributed for free from September.
In the meantime, take a look at the routes on Google My Maps, share your thoughts, let us know if you’d like free printed copies and start using them on journeys within and to central London.