Fifty years ago the official solution to London’s transport problems was Ringways - four motorway circuits that would speed up journeys for some, but destroy thousands of homes along the way.
Those plans were dropped, after a Homes before Roads campaign by amenity societies, supported by the Evening Standard, where I was writing as planning correspondent.
Today the focus has shifted to cutting car use, and supporting cyclists. We have a growing network of Cycleways.
We now need one more step - to support walking. It is time for Footways.
London Living Streets has mapped a Footways network of quiet and enjoyable routes through our busy streets, with links to interesting places along the way.
The aim is to encourage more people to walk from station to office, home to shop, cafe, theatre, or museum. Liverpool street to Barbican is 15 minutes, Euston to British Museum is 20 minutes.
There’s a great paper map, with routes on one side, and places on the other.
The challenge now is to get those routes - and interesting places - on to the map and journey apps that we can use on our phones.
EC1 is going to be one of the first places to experiment with using technology to help people navigate, enjoy their walk, and also engage with people and places along the way.
For the past couple of years I’ve been experimenting, with my son Dan and friends, in using various online mapping tools in Clerkenwell and City ... Google Mymaps, Humap, Maphub, Esri Storymaps. Link below.
I got in touch with Emma Griffin, co-founder of Footways, after seeing on their web site a request for help in putting Footways online. After several calls and emails, and (of course) a walk through Clerkenwell with Emma and co-founder David Harrison, we agreed to collaborate on experimenting with what’s possible along two Footways routes - one from the Angel to St Paul’s and one through the City from Smithfield to Liverpool Street.
I also want to develop a route along the City of London’s Culture Mile from Holborn to Moorgate, exploring the past, present and future of. the area. The opening of Crossrail next year will make Farringdon the most accessible place in London, so shops, bars, venues and heritage sites could benefit from the additional footfall that Footway routes could bring.
Footways could also support the City’s “Square Smile” campaign to encourage people back into the Square Mile.
Footways isn’t just about mapping routes - it is also a campaign for improving the routes, for example reducing motor traffic and parking, developing wider, accessible pavements and greening.
David Harrison says: “Footways has a vision of a city where walking is not only the primary, but also the most attractive form of transport in UK towns and cities; the city is designed from a pedestrian perspective with all key destinations connected with low-traffic or car-free streets. We want to point people to intriguing routes and make them a focus for improvements”.
I think that developing Footways could be a great way to explore what sort of streets and public spaces we need for the future, and how we can achieve improvements together. Mike Franks’s idea for a C21 Coffee House of the Streets proposes that we both talk about the streets and public realm we want - and that we do that in many places, including our streets.
If you are interested, get in touch with me or Mike - links below - and we’ll organise a get-together in the New Year to start the conversation.