Exploring our neighbourhoods through quiet streets and interesting walks
Streets for quiet and interesting walks
London Living Streets launched the Footways project in 2020 with a deeply-researched paper map of quiet and interesting walks through central London, and then put out a call for partners to help put the map online. Below are notes I prepared for discussions with Footways co-founders Emma Griffin and David Harrison. We've now agreed to experiment with different types of mapping in Clerkenwell and City.
Several recent developments have provided a focus for talking about enjoyable streets and the future of our neighbourhoods. Emma Griffin, of London Living Streets, provides the context: What next? Questions about walking and the future of central London. Emma writes:
The next two years are critical — to bring people safely back to city centres on foot and bike; to revive the life on streets; to make most of new healthy travel habits; and to decarbonise our roads.
Here's a some talking points around a key issue: how can we use digital technology to help people use and create maps and walks to explore and engage with neighbourhoods? I've added some practical ideas later.
The pandemic has led to street re-design for walking and cycling, and people have discovered more about their neighbourhoods through informal strolls. How to make best use of the London Living Streets Footways project which to help people find and use quiet and interesting streets for walking?
Walk and tour guides have published self-guided walks and created virtual tours as well as restarting face-to-face events. Can we help promote those, and build on the guides' expertise?
Apps for smartphones enable people both to plan walks and record their routes and experiences. Go Jauntly looks to be the most useful for the ideas here. Can it work well with other maps and apps?
If maps and walks also highlight key shops, businesses, services, and facilities they can provide a people-centred framework for thinking about our future neighbourhoods. How to do that?
Next year is the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. The 1977 Silver Jubilee catalysed development of the Jubilee Walkway, which is now one of the most popular promoted by Transport for London. Clerkenwell had it own Jubilee walk. Can the 2022 Jubilee help catalyse new ideas?
Rather than spinkle a lot of links through these points, I have used the Wakelet app to create sets of links here about the main topics. Also on right.
Below I've explored what we might do practically by combining the Footways map, research from Exploring EC1, and use of the GoJauntly app and other tools. Can we get a group together, to explore further? David Wilcox firstname.lastname@example.org
Click above for sets of links that cover:
London and local Footways plans for walks in quiet and health streets
Walks in Clerkenwell and City of London
Walking apps and route planners
Ideas for the Platinum Jubilee
Footways for London
Inspiring examples from Footways
Footways have developed more detailed examples of walks along the quiet routes, including the one on the right from Angel to Covent Garden.
The map page gives walk timings, and each point on the map has information about the location. There's also an interesting circular walk from Kings Cross exploring Bloomsbury history.
Developing walks in EC1
The Footways example above inspired me to create something similar in Clerkenwell, taking the Footways route from the Angel to St Paul's. I traced the Footways route using the Plotaroute app - which makes it really easy to follow roads and paths - then exported that as a kml file. I copied data from the Exploring EC1 Maphub map which I've been developing, selecting points of interests near the line of the route: see below. This is just a quick illustration - it would be possible to redo the map with points directly on the route, and suggested diversions off.
The approach is similar to the Footways Angel to Covent Garden walk, except I think that the Maphub system I've used has some advantages over Google MyMaps (see below), and I've been able to include more information.
The Angel to St Paul's route
One of the Footways routes is from the Angel to St Paul's Cathedral. I've copied the route to Maphub and added of the points of interest which are on the main EC1 Maphub map.
Each of the markers includes an image, text and links to an information sheet. There's also geolocation, and where available links to a site and Wikipedia. More here on that.
Flyover of the walk from Angel to St Paul's
It is easy to upload a kml file of the route to Google Earth, so I thought it would be fun to show a flyover. Click below to play.
Creating maps and walks for phones
Footways has developed, with Urban Good, a terrific printed map of the quiet routes, but as they indicate here the next challenge is to offer the maps on phones. Both Google maps and Maphub can, or course, be viewed through a browser on a phone, but a number of issues arise - for example:
how easy it is to view both the route and information about places of interest
can people see their current location on the map on the phone
is there information about distance and time to walk
is it possible to show nearby places of interest, that are worth a diversion
In addition, how easy is it for anyone, without great technical expertise, to create and share maps, so this becomes a participative, collaborative process.
The pros and cons of different apps depend on how they will be used, and what a walker is looking for. Do we want information-rich content, and step-by-step directions, or something simple with photos? Would an audio track be appealing? Do we want to create and share our own maps?
The GoJauntly app offers a wide range of pre-designed walks, plus the ability to create your own. More below.
I created a quick walk-through of the app, recorded from an iPad.
The GoJauntly walks app
As the app home page summarises: Find new walks based on your location. Simple photo guides help you navigate while nifty tips point out things of interest and places to eat. Check out our walking map to find the greenest routes while out and about walking. Use Nature Notes to record the good things you see in everyday nature, it can bring real benefits to mental wellbeing. Use Go Jauntly to document your route. Take photos with location switched on, add details that other people may find useful or interesting and then share with our growing community!
Experimenting with GoJauntly with other maps
Go Jauntly is free on iOS and Android, with premium features for £1.99 a month or £19.99 annually. As the above walk-through video shows, the app allows you find a wide range of existing walks, view maps and photo guides for the walks, and create your own. The app uses data contributed by Tranquil City to offer quiet green routes, or fastest routes. Further info in links here.
I think it is worth experimenting with Go Jauntly and other tools - both to address the challenge of bringing the Footways maps to mobile, and the wider opportunity of using maps and walks to explore and engage with our neighbourhoods.
Starting to explore
Here's first thoughts on how that might work:
First get together a group of people variously interested in walks, maps, technology and exploring the future of our neighbourhoods. Then after some demonstrations, and subject to group discussion:
Add more points of interest to the Exploring EC1 map, and plot a Footways route through the City to complement the Clerkenwell example. That provides a framework that may inspire explorations.
Invite group members to try the existing Go Jauntly maps for Clerkenwell and City - and then engage in some further experiments ... for example:
Create your own walk ... perhaps based on walks during the pandemic
Follow one of the self-guided walks I have referenced here - Exploring EC bookmarks - and create your own photos and commentary.
Sharing the experiments
Go Jauntly allows you to share the walks you have created with other Go Jauntly users, and also to download a gpx file showing the route. For the purposes of the experiment, explorers will need to enable location services on their phones, so that photos are geotagged. This is necessary to create Go Jauntly route.
It is then also possible to upload photos, and a gpx file, to the Maphub system, where the photos will position automatically along the route. This is one of the advantages over Google MyMaps. (Go Jauntly makes this easy, but it could be done just with photos, a route description, and Maphub).
Once the route and photos are on the map, it is easy to add more information to each of the points. There's an explanation of that here.
This small-scale collaborative mapping, using digital tools, could build on more general participatory mapping experience generally done in workshops with paper and other physical tools. Examples here. Members of the Living Maps Network have deep knowledge in this field.
Taking walks together, observing and recording, would be great way to build new relationships and a sense of what we hold in common. More here about the idea of Clerkenwell Commons, including Mike Franks' suggestions for a 21st Coffee House of the Streets in this article.
Walking and mapping can support thinking about 20 minute neighbourhoods, where people can find their everyday needs within a walk or cycle-ride.
Platinum Jubilee 2022
Back in 1977 I worked with the London celebrations committee for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. I was on secondment from the Evening Standard, where I was planning correspondent. The editor Charles Wintour was a great enthusiast for the celebrations. The committee created a Silver Jubilee Walkway for London, and I helped Mike Franks get funding for a Discovery Trail in Clerkenwell. Background here.
Perhaps the 2022 celebrations could be one way to catalyse further interest in walking, mapping and exploring our neighbourhoods? I've put some ideas together here on Jubilee Walks.
Our community newspaper, the EC1 Echo, has been really helpful in promoting ideas for mapping, and Clerkenwell Commons. Links on this page. The Echo has also promoted, with Chris Walker, a highly successful photo competition. More here about the competition and exhibition. Is it too much of a stretch to think about a Jubilee walks something-or-other ... opportunity ... challenge ... digital exhibition? The aim would be to collaborate in mapping all that's best about Clerkenwell - and City - and using walks and other methods to help residents, workers and visitors explore. The opening of Crossrail/Jubilee Line in 2022 will make this the most accessible place in London, so more maps and information could be good for businesses and heritage venues.