The way to spot a tourist in any big city is by the tell tale street map they grip in their hand to help them explore on foot. So when it comes to walking new routes in our own towns and cities how do we find our way? Our Local Engagement Coordinator, Aisha Hannibal, explores how our local groups are creating maps to make our streets fitter for walking and our campaigns work responsive to communities.
I don’t want to rub up against the busy rush hour traffic, even if it saves me ten minutes, so it’s along the river on the Taff Trail that I speed to nursery. Sharing the foot way with swans and watching sailing boats in the distance sitting like arctic terns are just a few of the highlights. I arrive relaxed, refreshed and just in time to stuff jackets and glittery pictures into my bag.
Travelling on foot creates a real time map of the path ahead highlighting the walking experience and the challenges for mobility scooters, wheelchairs and buggies rocking over the the rise and fall of the foot way.
I may talk about active travel all day but that doesn’t make the inertia of sitting down at a screen any easier. Leaving work with a long walk ahead to collect my daughter feels like the perfect antidote.
Going from A to B in any city presents challenges and walking is no different. Whereas mapping apps assist people driving with diversions or heavy traffic notifications, those walking are left to negotiate challenges as they present themselves.
Our Local Groups look at the challenges to walking in their neighbourhoods and turn these issues into action and concerns into cries for change. I talked to three of them about how they're using maps to make walking a viable option.
Southwark Local Group has been working with the Council to develop Walk Elephant a mapping project highlighting high quality walking routes. This was not dreamt up overnight but started ten years back as a grassroots community action.
The Local Group supported a group of residents campaigning to save Salisbury Row Park from being built on. This led to setting up a gardening group, creating a play area, nature garden and footpaths the Local Group also helped residents to secure a grant of £1.7m to create a ‘Streets for People’ Project.
The aim was to stop rat-running, improve the public realm and in particular the pavements and greenery in the streets around the park. Redundant roads were closed and replaced by footpaths and flower beds. Rat-running links were shut or calmed with humps. A before and after survey showed a 71% decrease in vehicle traffic and an 80% increase in walking and cycling in the area.
The Local Group went on to partner with other parks groups and linking green spaces to frm The Green Link. Working with Southwark Council, small changes were made to infrastructure so there was a walking/ cycling route that joined the Elephant and Castle to Burgess Park.
The Green Link has helped to improve walking and cycling providing an attractive alternative to busy roads, there has been an increase in the variety of wildlife and links to local amenities have improved.
London Living Streets is working with partners on the concept of the Central London Walking Network which aims to make walking the most attractive mode of travel for short journeys. With air quality and congestion hot topics in the news, this initiative aims to provide a joined-up network of ‘gold standard’ pedestrian priority routes.
David Harrison from London Local Group says, "We see the main roads often newly built in Victorian and Edwardian times such as Kingsway carrying through motor traffic while ancient roads would be largely for pedestrians. Many places a short distance apart eg Covent Garden and the British Museum could readily be walked if the routes between them were improved."
These routes provide healthy, safe and welcoming environments with low traffic levels between transport hubs, visitor attractions and green spaces while at the same time relieving pressure on the transport network.
Sutton Local Group has been actively involved with the Sutton section of the Wandle Trail helping to widen, improve and maintain the footpath providing an important transport link to Morden and Merton Abbey Mills. The map, produced by Wandle Memorial Museum, shows a useful transport link between Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth with good accessibility for wheelchairs and buggies. As Tony Pattison, Local Group Convenor says, "Maps do work".
Another mapping project Sutton Local Group has been involved in is Smarter Travel Sutton (STS) was launched in 2006, a £5million, three-year project to improve the borough by encouraging residents to look at their transport choices. A decade ago, the borough of Sutton had a population of 180,000 and a workforce of 67,000, with 77% of households having access to at least one car and 47% using the car for the journey to work.
The STS team visited all 79,500 households to deliver bespoke travel advice and members of our Sutton Local Group handed out integrated transport maps. STS reported that the mode share of car journeys for Sutton residents reduced by 2% within a year, with 38% of residents reporting that they had reduced or were considering reducing the amount they drove.
For some people, leaving the house to take a walk presents a number of obstacles, causing many vulnerable people to stay indoors. However in Bedminster, Bristol, a group of people concerned about this very issue identified that one of the barriers to older people getting out is the lack of knowing where the nearest toilet is.
The community came together and spoke with local businesses to see if they would like to be involved and highlight their facilities on the map. A pocket sized map was created for the community: A great example of collaborative action and of what it’s possible for community campaigners to achieve.
Take action where you live
Want to make your streets more walkable? Our Local Groups help build a walking nation one street, community, town and city at a time.
Find out where your nearest group is - or set one up.