The Central London Walking Network proposes a network of healthy and attractive routes that connects London’s iconic destinations, railway stations and parks.
It uses London’s ancient, characterful streets for those on foot, leaving the big roads built by the Victorians and Edwardians for through motor traffic. These older streets would need relatively small improvements to create safe, clean, quiet, pleasant and interesting walking environments.
The Network links projects, proposed and underway, including Camden’s West End Project and the redevelopment of Holborn gyratory and Westminster’s plans for Strand Aldwych. By linking these, and other attractions and transport interchanges, the network connects and presents London as an outstanding commercial and cultural destination.
- A network of clean, safe, quiet, and interesting streets
- Enables and invites visitors, residents and workers to walk between transport interchanges and attractions, taking the pressure off public transport and reducing the reliance on private hire vehicles
- Presents London as world-class city where people want to visit, live, work and learn
- Increases active travel and healthy lifestyles
- Creates low pollution walking routes
- More people walking creates commercial opportunities for businesses and landowners
- Improves road safety by providing more space for walking and improved crossing points
Ingredients of the network
The following improvements will be required to the streets along the routes and the major roads they cross.
- Wider, better pavements, achieved at the expense of car parking.
- Filtering of streets to reduce traffic volumes and reduce noise levels, improve air quality and create a calm and pleasant walking environment.
- Improved crossings facilities – both formal and informal.
- Greening to provide shelter and shade, improve air quality and the feel of the streets.
- Seating to create places where people can stop and rest.
- Use of older streets rather than main roads that are better suited to motor traffic.
Sample route from British Museum to Waterloo or Trafalgar Square
The network would eventually criss-cross London, joining a variety of landmarks and stations (as illustrated above). Here we present a sample route linking the British Museum with either Trafalgar Square or Waterloo Bridge. The precise routes would be decided with boroughs. This route could form part of a longer route from Euston to Waterloo Station.
The routes use streets, including Bow Street, Monmouth Street and St Martin’s Lane, which were part of London’s ancient street pattern. These contrast with later roads, such as Kingsway, created in 1905, which are more suitable for motor vehicles.
They link a range of attractions important to both visitors and local communities including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Somerset House, a number of schools, churches, theatres, health and leisure centres, hotels, pubs, restaurants and squares.
The route also builds on and links the excellent public realm improvements completed at Trafalgar Square, underway for Camden Council’s West End Project and proposed by City of Westminster for the Strand Aldwych area.
The route already exhibits characteristics that are excellent for walking. There is a human scale to architecture through the route and many points of intrigue. Some locations have already been improved to create a sense of place. But these points of excellence lack coherence as a route.
- Poor crossing facilities and prohibitive junctions prevent people from following natural desire lines.
- There is a poor balance between people and vehicles
- Pavements are narrow and inconsistent
- Footways are cluttered with vertical poles
- Parking is too often prioritised even when the roadway is underused.
St Martin’s Lane is a good example of a street given over to motor traffic at the expense of pedestrians, who are crammed onto narrow pavements when the theatres and restaurants spill out. Simple improvements including removal of on-street parking and wider pavements could transform the street and give space back to those who need it most.
We imagine cafes, restaurants and pubs, extending the seating areas. Features such as benches, greenery or public art would further enhance the streets, making these places to spend time rather than rush through.
A wider network
In the longer term, we propose an extensive network where through motor traffic would be confined to major distributor roads (with some exceptions for buses) leaving other streets to be part of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods with access only for motor vehicles. But this will take time. A more immediate goal is for key streets on pedestrian desire lines to be turned into low-traffic routes.
Currently we are gaining support from different groups including:
- London-wide authorities;
- the local authorities with streets and roads that touch the network;
- and the BIDs, institutions and community groups that sit along the network.
If this base level of interest exists, then we would propose a conference or workshops to test and develop the idea further.
Main image courtesy of Arup: Camden is to receive £12.5 million to transform streets around Holborn, including pedestrianisation of Great Russell Street and Museum Street (pictured) around the British Museum.