Exploring our neighbourhoods through quiet streets and interesting walks 

Streets for quiet and interesting walks

David Wilcox

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.

More here in the EC1 Echo.

The context

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.

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 david@socialreporter.com

Click above for sets of links that cover:

Footways for London

The Footways project is being developed by London Living Streets to create a network of quiet and interesting streets for walking in London.

The places include mainline train stations, popular destinations and green spaces. It prompts Londoners and visitors to choose walking as the most enjoyable, efficient and healthy option.

On the left is the section for EC1. Open the full map here. The project adds: 

We are seeking partners to help us deliver digital tools and bring Footways to a digital, mobile audience. Please get in touch if you think you can help.

Here's some first ideas which I hope might help bring together a group to experiment with digital tools in EC1 and the City, and hopefully elsewhere.

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.

Flyover of the Clerkenwell Commons trail

Flyovers can be developed further. Here's one by Daniel Wilcox, of the Clerkenwell Common trail we developed in 2019.  Play from this page. Map of the trail here. 

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:

In addition, how easy is it for anyone, without great technical expertise, to create and share maps, so this becomes a participative, collaborative process.

In this set of bookmarks - Exploring London EC - I've put together examples of self-guided walks ands tours in Clerkenwell and the City,  and also links to Walking apps and route planners.

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:

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.