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Wayfinding for Walkability

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 18th, 2011

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective


Image: Martin Deutsch via flickr CC

From “Will London’s New Wayfinding System Get More People Walking?” by This Big City:

If you’ve walked through Covent Garden, Southbank or Oxford Street recently, the chances are you will have stumbled across the funky new Legible London pedestrian signs installed by Transport for London (TfL). These sleek, stylish ‘monoliths’ have been sprouting up all over the capital during the last year.  Each monolith is strategically placed and has:

  • An easy-to-read map that is orientated to the users point of view;
  • 5 and 15 minute walking distances;
  • 3D drawings of key shops and buildings in the area.

Changing Londoners’ mental maps
The thinking behind the new system is to encourage more people to walk around London instead of driving or using already overcrowded public transport. By catching people at key decision points – such as tube stations – and providing them with the right information on walking times and local attractions, it is hoped that they will choose to walk.
According to TfL, information really is key in achieving modal shift. Research found that most Londoners mental map of London is based on the tube map which is geographically distorted and can be very misleading. For instance there are over 100 connections on the underground where its quicker to walk than take the tube! Legible London maps will often show users that their destination is closer and more walkable than they think.

A city of villages
To provide Londoners with a coherent wayfinding system, the Legible London designers have broken the city down into three key spatial hierarchies:

  • Areas: ‘broad areas of the city’ such as the West End;
  • Villages: ‘commonly used names’ which Londoners use to quickly connect one part of the city to another;
  • Neighbourhoods: there are several neighbourhoods in each village.

TfL believe that this process of breaking places down, helps pedestrians to explore and find their way around the city:

As you become more familiar with a particular place, the more you can keep sub-dividing it into smaller, linked pieces, creating a more detailed mental map.

Read the full article by This Big City on Sustainable Cities Collective.

One Response to “Wayfinding for Walkability”

  1. Jeremy Caulton Says:

    August 8th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I would like to contact Kate Archdeacon with regards this article – in particulr the possibility of the Legible London team being able to present its process and findings to future seminars.Thanks