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Londonist Interviews: Some People Who Like Walking

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By M@ Last edited 121 months ago
Londonist Interviews: Some People Who Like Walking
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Anyone walking past Holborn Tube is sure to have all kinds of leaflet thrust upon them. But if you were passing by last Friday, you might have ended up with something worthwhile. A group of postgrads from St Martin's have put together a handy map of zone 1 showing just how short the distances are between stations. The idea is to encourage more people to walk, rather than take public transport, and thus do their bit for cutting emissions. We caught up with them over the weekend...

So, tell us a bit about yourselves

There are six of us in our group. We are postgraduate students at Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design that are currently working on a MA in Design Studies. Our brief for this week was to find an issue we care about and create a buzz to affect positive change.

Who's on the team?

Each one of us comes from a unique background, which made for a really interesting experience while collaborating on this project. Soyoung is from Seoul and has worked in creative consulting, Keni (Hong Kong) is a product designer, Sara (Madrid) has a law degree and has worked in marketing, Mariel (New York) worked in book publishing, and Ratiphat (aka Egg), is an interiror designer from Thailand. I'm originally from New Jersey, but have been living here for the last two years (I really love London and hope to stay permanently). We are all creative, but have strengths in different areas. It is great to be on a team like that, because you quickly build a sense of trust and the knowledge that there is someone who is strong in areas that you may not have had as much experience.

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Did you do a lot of walking around London before this project, or was it the project that openend your eyes to walking?

I think the answer to that question is yes to both. We are students, so walking is our primary source of transportation most of the time. London is an amazing city to walk around, as it is so diverse architecturally and has such a rich history. I think, because we all hail from different cities and countries, London is still new to us and holds a lot of quirky and yet-to-be-found wonder. The best way to get in touch with that aspect of any city, is to walk around and explore. The one thing we learned while working on this project that surprised all of us, and really opened our eyes about walking, is how close most tube stops are to one another in central London. Most Zone 1 tube stops are within 10 minutes walking distance of one another (for example Chancery Lane and Holborn or Bank and Liverpool St.). I don't think that most people are aware that is is often quicker to walk (not to mention cheaper, healthier, and generally a more pleasant experience).

So you picked Holborn tube station to distribute the maps? Are you nuts? That junction is pedestrian hell. Trying to persuade people they should walk more while in that environment would be like trying to talk someone into bungee jumping by showing them footage of snapping ropes. Madness. Sorry, that's not a question, more an observation.

Giggle. There were some guys that were out distributing one of the (many) free newspapers at the same time that we were at the station raising awareness. They had a pretty good laugh at us for the reason you mentioned, as well as the fact it was a bit chilly that day. We had a great time anyway, and got such a positive response from people that it was well worth it. Holborn Station is just down the street from Central Saint Martins, so we were able to get inside and warm up quickly afterwards.

Are you finding that the people most receptive to your map are tourists, or London workers?

We had people in both categories express interest. London workers seemed quite interested. Some people even took a number of our maps to hand out in the office! One woman thought it was such a good idea that we should take the map to tourist offices and make a business out of it. I had the chance to speak with two tourists who were grumbling over the cost of the tube. I gave them our map and explained what it was, and they were overjoyed. Most people have A-Z or other geographical maps, which are extremely helpful resources, but the service that our map provides that others do not is information on just how long it will take you to get from one place to another. What looks like it will take ages in the A-Z, is most likely closer than you think, and that is where our map comes in.

Where do you go from here? Are you going to focus on circulating the map, or do you have other tricks up your collective sleeve?

This project has great potential, and while the assignment is over on Monday (cross your fingers for our presentation) there has been talk of extending the life of the map and the movement. We would love to hear feedback on our blog site.

What's your favourite place to walk in London?

I used to live near Aldgate East, and my favourite walk at that time was over Tower Bridge and along the Thames Path to Borough Market. There are a number of lovely pubs to stop at on the way home, and nothing beats the colour, smells and tastes of spending a couple hours at that market. Now I live in Barnsbury (Islington), and my favourite walk by far is up to the new Emirates Stadium to watch the Arsenal play (whilst holding my boyfriend's hand of course). Mariel writes, "I really like the walk that comes down from Trafalgar Square to Covent Garden to the Thames. There's something about the hussle and bussel that turns quiet and peaceful

and then beautiful with the bridge and river." Keni chipped in that his favourite place to walk in

London is the bit of the Thames Path that goes past the Tate, his reasons being, "You can see all those lovely historical buildings situated on the riverbank while enjoying the many activities such as the Tate Modern Exhibitions, The National Theatre events, etc."

Which bits of London could be more pedestrian friendly?

We all agree that the one place we really dislike walking is Oxford Street. I can vouch that it is overcrowded and it makes me grumpy. Keni thinks that there should be times when the area is pedestrian only. His idea is that Sundays could be designated walk only during certain hours, thereby opening up space for people to walk and not be so crowded (Mariel hates that people in that area either walk too slow or bump into you). It would also cut down on carbon emissions in that area for that allotted amount of time, so while people were walking they would not have to be bombarded by exhaust fumes.

If you were Mayor, what would you change about London?

I would quickly grant myself permanent residency. London is a wonderfully diverse, cosmopolitan, and vibrant city. Like all other cities it has its problems i.e. bureaucracy, congestion, poverty. The issue I think that Londoners could work on a bit, is being a bit more aware of those around them. Kindness, politeness, respect—these are attributes that do not cost anything other than perhaps a couple extra seconds of spare thought. I'm not sure how I could affect this change from the Mayor's office though, I think it has to work from the ground up. We discussed topics like this in my group and in my course. It is a common thought shared within the creative community, and we are all dedicated to coming up with solutions. Sometimes many small solutions create change in a big way— I think this is one of the principles we operate under in our MA Design Studies course at Central Saint Martins.

Have you ever been sick on the Tube?

Yuck! No, nor has anyone in my group. We are responsible creative-types.

Last Updated 12 February 2007