Of all the transport modes we have covered on London Reconnections, we have rarely hitherto covered the first principle of movement – walking (in which we include personal mobility assistive devices and rideables). Here we look at the world of ‘High Lines’ and their current status within the capital.
In 1991 London published a green strategy that recommended developing and establishing walking and cycling networks in the city. This slowly developed in the background as many other, higher profile transport schemes were mused, discussed and debated.
Part of the reason for the near-invisibility of such walking plans is that responsibility for the pedestrian environment is spread over government departments, London boroughs, railway stations and private property. As a result, there is no single entity in charge of overseeing, directing or protecting the pedestrian realm. The rules and regulations of pedestrian byways have been codified into byelaws, building codes, highway acts and more. Much like the British ‘constitution’, there is no single act of law, simply a collection of individual statute clauses built up over the centuries.
There has been no overall walking or pedestrian initiative, strategy or agency policy for improving walking in London, just individual initiatives like the National Trail’s Thames Path and individual borough policies. Unfortunately, Thames Path access is being restricted by numerous riverside property owners.
As with train operating companies, this at times leads to a lack of joined up thinking to improve the pedestrian environment. As a result, the pedestrian experience is often haphazard and disjointed, shunted aside for private developments or higher forms of transport and squeezed into whatever leftover space remains.
We are all pedestrians. Human movement brings us to school and work, family and entertainment, and back again. We may use mechanised transport in between, but most of us start and end our journeys on our feet or using personal mobility devices.