Case Studies

London, Pedestrian Routemap


Project Director
Tim Stonor


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London Pedestrian Routemap

A concept for a user-friendly pedestrian map of London, based on a network of key routes, some existing and some with future potentials.

A concept to promote walking across central London by highlighting the importance of the city’s principal streets.

The opportunity

The first aim of the London Pedestrian Routemap is to encourage walking in London. It does this by providing a simple, memorable picture of key walking routes in the Capital. At present there is no such map. The Routemap shows how key places connect by straightforward routes of varying character.

A further aim of the map is to highlight strategic opportunities for improving London’s key walking route network. These opportunities have been identified through careful analysis of London’s public realm.

The evidence base

The map is based on extensive research into walking patterns in London. This research has two aspects: first, an understanding of where people walk and second, an understanding of why people choose to walk where they do.

Information on where people walk has been gathered through numerous survey exercises over many years, conducted on behalf of Space Syntax’s public and private sector clients and assembled into a single evidence base using “GIS” technology.

Key findings include:

1. despite the presence of heavier traffic flows, people tend to walk more on London’s main streets

2. pedestrian flows at lunchtime are typically higher than pedestrian flows in either the morning or evening rush hours

3. there are typically more women than men walking in central London and more non-tourists than tourists, even in the heart of the capital

4. peak flows for different users occur at different times of the day; for example, the peak period for older people is late morning while that for tourists is late afternoon.

Information on why people walk where they do comes, in the main, from the 25-year programme of academic research at University College London, undertaken by Professor Bill Hillier and his colleagues in the Space Syntax Laboratory at University College London.

Key findings include:

1. people are sophisticated ‘readers’ of the public realm

2. although each person makes individual choices when walking, these choices tend to follow consistent patterns

3. people prefer safe and convenient routes

4. people tend to select simpler, more accessible routes than more complex, less accessible ones

5. route complexity can be measured objectively through computer-based analysis of London’s street network and, by doing so, a hierarchy of major to minor routes can be established.

How the map was created

The London Pedestrian Routemap has been generated in the following way:

Step one
London’s pedestrian walking network has been analysed objectively using ‘spatial accessibility’ software developed by the Space Syntax Laboratory at University College London. This software has been tested in academia and in practice over nearly 30 years.

The most accessible routes have been extracted from the analysis to form the basis for the Routemap: a simplified picture of key walking routes in London.

Step two
The set of most accessible routes has then been subdivided into a series of ‘character routes’, to introduce a further level of simplification and recognition. Each route has been ‘themed’ according to its local context and/or geographic position in London.

Step three
The geometry of the overall network has been mildly simplified to facilitate memorability and recognition. This simplification has, however, retained the overall geometry of London’s major route network – the curve of Regent’s Street; the arch of the Aldwych and the bend in the Thames at the South Bank Centre – as these features are recognisable to users.

Step four
Key locations – major buildings and public spaces – have been picked out and labelled to provide regular ‘place checks’ for users.

Further information

Space Syntax Research page
Details of our research into the future of buildings & urban places.

Space Syntax Consulting page
Details of our services supporting public & private sector clients in the creation of urban planning strategies.