For the first time in over twenty years, London has new pedways. For the uninitiated, a pedway is a walkway usually at first floor level, that acts as a floating pavement — think Hogwarts, but more brutalist.
The walkways in the sky are a feature of the post-war City, that aimed to separate pedestrians from the traffic beneath. Except they failed miserably — check out our full history of the doomed creatures. Now that they're back in the limelight, we argue why this comeback deserves to be given a chance.
Avoid air pollution
The City of London has plenty of hidden alleyways that are only wide enough for one person at a time. It similarly has a plethora of busy gridlocked roads. As buses trundle down busy streets such as Upper Thames Street and Ludgate Hill, they furiously pump out toxic exhaust fumes. Pedestrians who walk alongside these busy thoroughfares are subject to the rampant air pollution.
So what to do? Well there are many theories about how London should tackle air pollution, most targeted at the vehicles — impose higher congestion charge, or reduce the number of diesel vehicles on the streets. However, while the streets are unsafe and lead to 9,000 premature deaths a year solely from air pollution, people should try to avoid them. What better way than floating above them?
Basic though it might seem, raised platforms give increased and usually aesthetically pleasing views of the surrounding landscape. Take the Shard as an example. Ok, we're not suggesting building a network of pedways at the height of the Shard — but wouldn't that be incredible, if a bit windy? Even being just a couple of storeys up provides a pretty spectacle.
Want proof of this? Check out the new pedways by London Wall, which offer gorgeous views over the remains of St Alphage Church beneath.
A new way for the city to grow
There was a significant issue with the pedways' initial implementation. All buildings were forced to either build pedways or at least have the capabilities to implement them, which is why so many office blocks in the City have seemingly pointless recesses around the second floor — they were for pedways that were never built. However, there was never an overall plan of how these could link up, which meant that London ended up with a lot of dead end pedways.
However, instead of this being held against the pedways, couldn't it be one of their greatest strengths? Their growth without pinpoint planning mirrors that of the ancient city itself. Streets and alleyways that grew naturally instead of grid-like rigidity. Land is at a premium and London's streets don't have much more space to grow like this now. However, pedways do.
Unlike crowded roads that have to account for multiple types of users — cars, buses, pedestrians, those annoying people on electric scooters — pedways are made with only one thing in mind: walkers.
Now we're not naïve enough to suggest that skateboarders won't try and muscle in on the spaces too, but that still leaves pedways a lot less crowded than your average road. A system that priorities pedestrians comes with many positives, most prominently safety. That guarantee should get more Londoners walking throughout the day, something our current mayor is very keen on.
Fodder for designers
There's really only so much we can do with roads and pavements. A bit of tarmac here, a few paving stones there, and ta-da, you've got yourself a street. Whereas pedways open up a whole world of opportunities.
Most of the original pedways were brutalist concrete beasts, but look at the stunning new ones at London Wall. The weathered steel looks gorgeous, and brightens up a grey area. That's just one material of many that could be used if more pedways were to crop up.
Not that we can do parkour, but some people can, and we love watching them strut their stuff. Pedways offer up a whole new world of opportunities. And we want to see what some talented people could do with them.