It’s been a while since my last post and I thought it’s about time I created something new! As the London Greenground Map has turned out to be my most successful project so far with 46,000 downloads and 500 paper maps sold up to now, I have decided to keep creating these schematic walking maps, which people like and I love making. So the next map in the Greenground series is another green capital – Edinburgh! 🏰⛰️
Edinburgh is much more compact than London and this map aims to connect most Edinburgh parks and open spaces and some further afield. I have not included Queensferry as I wanted to keep the diamond shape of the map, but I am open to all suggestions & comments to make this map spread wider in future versions. Right now it covers around 220 Edinburgh open spaces and has 9 creative green and blue lines.
Those who follow me on Twitter know I base my maps on Google Maps, which is great tool to work with, but is not always accurately showing all the green spaces. For Edinburgh map I also used Parks and Gardens list of Edinburgh Council to find smaller parks. Some of these parks do not come up on Google maps and can be located using this directory. The Muir line is based on John Muir Way and more detailed maps can be seen on their website.
Edinburgh is a very walkable city and also in a walking distance from the countryside. To show this I extended the lines to south up to Pentland Hills Regional Park, that’s only 6 miles away from the centre or 8 miles via scenic Water of Leith walking path. However walking and cycling from Edinburgh can be challenging due the bypass that divides Edinburgh & the great outdoors as well as numerous golf clubs that are green, but closed off from public.
The Edinburgh map is in chillier tones than London map, reflecting the cool northern vibe. I’ve only visited Edinburgh during low light autumn/winter season and I think it’s a beautiful quiet time of year to walk in the parks & by the seaside and follow the river paths on the bike. As we are heading to this season now I hope the map helps Edinburgh locals to get out and discover new green spaces during this winter. 🚶♀️🚴
I am taking a step back this week and looking more into the background of London multiple wayfinding systems to make connections and see, where the current project could be positioned and if there’s a room for more wayfinding. So here are different levels of pedestrian and cycling navigation systems I have currently identified. There are many more, of course, but this gives some idea of what the people on the ground level are faced with.
The time when simple signs here and there were considered job well done is long past and the systems are becoming increasingly more complicated to develop and implement. On the other hand it is also becoming a skill to read these systems effectively and make the connections between different wayfinding systems. Whether we want it or not, it’s likely we use many systems in one day to find our way in the city.
When Legible London by Applied Wayfinding launched in 2007 it was a groundbreaking A to B walking system and attempt to unify all the different signage in London. I think it has been a huge success and I remember what difference it made between mid 2000s when I first started visiting London and on 2010 when I lived there. I’ve also used it every time on my London visits since and it’s one of the best executed systems I know. However, I still find that maps that show streets around you in about 5-20 min radius are sometimes hard to connect. Applied wayfinding itself admits in their research that at the time they conducted it nearly half (44,7%) of people used London Underground map for planning the journey.
TFL transport maps
The TFL transport maps and signage is the most used wayfinding system in the city. These practical and straightforward maps are meant to be understood by anyone (residents and visitors alike). However as London is growing the TFL maps have also become more complicated, trying to include more information that can make the maps less legible. The current tube map is far more information heavy than it used to be a decade ago, but I think it still remains one of the best navigation maps in the city. Journey planner is a handy tool for quick travel planning and now also includes alternative transport, but it can limit the overview of the whole network. I always prefer to have a ‘real’ map as a backup to see where I am actually going.
Walk London Network
The Walk London Network is the network of walking paths in and around London originally created by Ramblers. Mainly intended for leisure walking and hiking these paths aim to take people to more natural areas and pathways. The difference between Legible London and Walk London Network is the intention of the walk – first being a wayfinder in the urban environment and second mainly for leisure walking and hiking. The waymarking on these trails are more hidden depending on the location and you may need an additional map to accompany the walk. Taking these paths require more preparation, including some map reading skills.
Each council such as Hounslow for example has their own wayfinding systems for local interest. Public pathways, riverside walks, placemakers in the town centres and park maps. These are all grown from local initiative and represent an important part of the community. They also give identity for the neighbourhood and can be modern or traditional, even spread across several boroughs. So it’s very possible than by walking around one neighbourhood you come across to quite a few different wayfinding systems, maps and signs along the way.
Site specific signage applies for example to college grounds, entertainment sites and shopping districts. These are often modern and cutting edge signage systems to find specific points of interest on the grounds. Most of the times these systems are site specific and not visually connected to other external systems. For example both Barbican and Wembley Park have developed site specific wayfinding and signage. Also, the Royal Parks have their own mapping and signage system that is applied London wide and across several boroughs.
The London cycle network has its own layered wayfinding system I know less about, as I have not cycled as much in London as I have walked (it always seemed too dangerous before). It also has changed significantly due to new cycleways and signs that are implemented right now. So I am yet to explore this further, but according to my local informant Angus there are several systems that are yet to be connected with each other and to nation wide cycle network.
This seems a lot, but London is a very complex city and it’s not surprising it needs multiple levels of signage for transport, walking and cycling. Is there a room for Greenground navigation in this? I think so as it represents a different side of London that is not transport specific and opens up a whole new experience for many people.
Twitter thread with signage, maps and systems shared by Londoners. Thank you everyone who contributed to this thread! 🙏
If the idea of continuous pavement line network across London seems too out there, then another option could be more traditional wayfinding system with sign-posts in the centre or at the entrances of the green space. As the core idea of the Greenground is to travel through and between the parks, then maybe in the centre rather than at each entrance. Also, I measure the distance between the parks from approximate centre point of the park. As some of the parks are huge and the Greenground diagram shows circles I think this is the only way to do this if the walkers and cyclers aim to travel from park to park.
However the ‘park pole’ should still be on a used path, not for example in the field or woods. It should have a park name, on which ‘line’ this park is and which are the closest parks on the line. It could also have the time it takes to walk or cycle to the next green space and what outdoor activities the park has. This solution is not as easy to navigate than the robust pavement lines, but it is more discreet and would still help people to discover their parks. Even if you are not familiar with the Greenground concept, seeing one of those green poles makes you take notice of the parks nearby. Technically these signs would also work without the ‘line’ attached just as a guide for nearby parks.
The park pole could also be at the edge of the park if it’s on a quiet way by the river or canal, where lot of people would pass. I think there is no particular rule either than being somewhere central, where it is seen. For example Victoria park runs along the Regent Canal, but its true centre is quite far – if you walk by the canal, you wouldn’t come across the pole. It’s also possible the park is connected with several ‘lines’. Victoria park on the Greenground map is on Regent Line, but is also nearby to other significant North London parks ‘connected’ via North Line. The alternative could be Victoria park having two park poles for each line.
In more ‘rural’ settings the park pole could be made of wood instead of metal and stand on main path or on a crossroad somewhere close to the centre point, where people could rest and decide which path to take next. In a way it is like a ‘station’, where you can plan your next part of the journey, check the distance/time to next stop and maybe change lines if you wish to. You can also ‘get off’ from the line, explore the park and continue the journey later. The sign in this setting might look intrusive, but at the same time it is clearly visible for everyone.
To sum up the whole idea of ‘park pole’ approach is to find a central place that becomes a station for slow commuters. It can be either in the geographical centre or near a resting area in the green space. This more traditional wayfinding system points from park to park, however it’s up to commuter to find the exact way. I think this approach would work in certain areas, but may be more challenging to establish in rural settings, where is more concern for keeping the integrity of the landscape and in city centre parks where the space is limited.
Would this work? Would be great to hear, what you guys think in Twitter!
The first paper edition of #GreengroundMap came out last week (yay!) and I have been thinking how the Greenground idea could work in reality. The map is inspired by the London underground system, but the core idea is for people to walk and cycle between parks and green spaces. Obviously the Greenground is not as defined as the transport system, where the tube takes people from station the station. So how would walkers and cyclists navigate from park to park in a simple and straightforward way using visual clues like they do in the underground?
The simplest solution would be to use painted lines on the pavement in public spaces. As the cities grow more complicated, the coloured footpath lines could build a designated grid for the walkers and cyclists through quieter natural environments, away from the busy roadsides and traffic. This could work well along the waterways, which by nature are simple to navigate. The lines wouldn’t divide the path like traffic lines do, but run alongside as a navigation tool, making the turns and twists at detours.
The parks and open spaces on the line would be the open green ‘stations’ where to rest briefly or spend time in nature and enjoy outdoor activities. Parks could have some designated seating areas and signage for the ‘Greenground’ commuters and even facilities such as water fills and bicycle racks. The downside could be the overcrowded lines in certain times and some of these ‘park stations’ could face overuse. However, if to guide the Greenground commuters to wider roads, the rest of park grounds wouldn’t suffer as much.
The pavement lines could work in paved city environment, but not all London (thankfully) is paved. There are still plenty of tracks and paths for walkers and cyclists to explore in more natural surroundings. The walking paths such as Capital Ring and London Loop mostly go through natural environments and are intended for urban hikers. The Greenground is not a competition to these paths and does not replace them. It’s a visual navigation system to enable people to switch from transport systems to active travel more easily.
Perhaps this physical marking is not so much needed in the digital era, where everyone has a personal navigation device. The map could also remain digital and act as a reference rather than propose a physical way-finding system. With no painted lines the Greenground navigation could be more intuitive and personal. With only existing virtually, the lines can be easily adjusted, added and changed if one area starts to get too much traffic. Especially small parks and narrow paths may feel the pressure more, if suddenly too many people passes through.
It’s wonderful the first Greenground map has been received so well, but is it just a quirky idea or could it be a real life navigation system?
I don’t have any new projects to post this week as I am taking few weeks off, but I’ve been walking as usual and covered some good distance this weekend. I’m still exploring ‘locally’ which for me means covering around 10-15 km a day. I could walk more locally, but the forest is a bit scruffy around here and I prefer to go further out. Anyway, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the time than exploring.
Yesterday I did a 10 km circular walk passing the Tallinn TV Tower and ending up in the nicer parts of Pirita Forest. I think this is now my favourite place for forest bathing as it’s so quiet compared to the city centre. There were plenty of people around, but social distancing is not really a problem here once you keep off the main tracks. I found a pretty, quiet spot, had some tea and took in big breaths of pine forrest.
Today I wanted to find out if I could walk to the beach (as I really miss it), so I set off around noon. The beach from here is about 5 km away and I usually take a bus. But with no public transport option today I had to walk and it was a great walk too in the woods and by the river. I might even take this route occasionally once the lock-down ends. The return walk was less than 12 km and the beach was lovely today.
I hope next week will be more eventful and maybe some interesting project comes up.. But for now I just keep doing my loops and keep fingers crossed the world opens up soon. Be safe and keep walking!
Everyone should be able to walk into the forest from where they live. Tallinn is luckily quite a small city compared to some other capitals and nature is never too far off. Yet it can be far (as I discovered this week) if you don’t own a car or can use the public transport (which by the way is free). So I’ve been doing some pretty long walks this week to get into the woods during the lock-down.
I walked another 30 km this weekend just like last week and discovered more of the Pirita river valley. It’s not very attractive where I am based right now, but it gets lot better in about 2 km with high river banks on both sides and pine forests along the river banks. Watching wild ducks practising fly-bys along the river valley was not what I expected to see in urban environment.
It’s not all amazing, I’ve also seen lot of rubbish and neglect in these few days – it is still a city and the nature gets the impact from densely populated area. Many people have not been respectful of social distancing and the car parks are full despite of the lock-down.. But across the river Pirita forest’s intertwining tracks were still quiet in most parts and less impacted by the hordes in the valley.
Local walks in the woods have definitely made my week and I also finished the ‘greener and healthier walking app’ design prototype I’ve been working on for the past week or two for my Coursera project. This was my final submission and I’m quite happy how it turned out (below). If anyone would like to try, the interactive version is in Visme as well.
As it has been pretty quiet over here I’ve decided to take a two week break and hope things pick up again when I resume working. 🤞
I am going to change the format of this blog a little and instead of posting only finished projects I will reuse the same method I did with my travel blog few years back – I will talk about what I do on ongoing bases and include the projects as part of the weekly/twice a month posts ( depending how I’m getting on with this time wise and if there’s anyone interested reading it every week) : )
There’s not much new to say about Corona as it’s hit us here in Estonia just as anywhere else. The country went to lock-down as precaution and everything pretty much shut down this week. We’ll see what the long term effects of this will be, but right now the supermarkets are still well stocked (as my Friday shopping trip confirmed) and panic buying does not have such a big impact here (yet).
Things for me were quiet even before the global pandemic and apart of one map project there’s nothing happening right now. The great news is this means I can go for the walks also inside the week and not only on the weekends. Avoiding public transport and not owning a car means I have to discover my local neighbourhood which at first seemed dispiriting, but turned out to be lot better than I expected!
So for three days this week I’ve explored the walks around Pirita river valley – one of the biggest nature reserves in this area. I’ve often walked on the Pirita beach, but I haven’t been in the river valley for years and I didn’t realise how close they are linked. This week I was able to connect the two tracks and discover a new long distance walk that passes some of the most beautiful scenery in the city.
The Pirita forest is a dense urban forest of dominantly beach pine and the river winds through it, offering stunning views on every turn – on one side of high white sand banks and on other of reed beds and abundant wild fowl. It’s amazing to see the nature thriving in the middle of the city, so close to urban development. This is also an active leisure area and yet it remains very calm and spacious.
As much as I’m loving my social isolation walks it’s also certain things won’t stay this quiet forever. So for the last few weeks I’ve also been taking an online course at Coursera to see if this will bring in some new ideas and ideally new work. I’m taking the UX design fundamentals by Cal Arts and I really enjoy it and can highly recommend it to anyone interested to know more of UX.
My final self-chosen course project is an app prototype for planning greener and healthier journeys and the core idea is to offer alternative route suggestions based on air quality, noise levels, urban greenery and activity count. So this is what I am working on right now and fingers crossed this could also evolve to a real world project.
Anyone out there interested in building or funding it? : )
This week’s green city is Bristol as one of the greenest cities in UK and home of many green enterprises, festivals and BBC Nature. I chose Bristol as I lived there during my postgraduate studies and did lot of walking and cycling during my time as a student. Our campus next to Ashton Court park was in a very leafy setting with deer park next to it and my student house in Southville in walking distance from everywhere. 🚶♀️
Bristol’s green mentality is in fact so strong that it was awarded the European Green Capital award in 2015 as first city in UK. As a walkable/cyclable city with healthy air, strong green economy and further goals to change the city transport and energy more sustainable, Bristol scored all the boxes to win the green city award. Since then there has been even a stronger focus on green development and the city offers many green activities.
According to Visit Bristol the city has proportionally more parks and green spaces than any other city (over 400) and nature is never very far away. Bristol also has over 1100 hectares of Nature Reserve sites, some of them such as Avon Gorge is nationally important site with 30 rare plant species and several rare wildlife species that only exist in this site. With such rare habitat it has a Special Area of Conservation status.
Before Bristol became the Green Capital it was the first cycling city back in 2008. It’s the birthplace of the National Cycle Network and Sustrans – UK walking and cycling charity. Now Bristol has 300 bike parking spaces and getting around on bike is popular for both Bristolians and visitors (despite the many Bristol hills). You can even take a bike trail to Bath or practise mountain biking on Ashton Court park tracks.
River Avon is the main landmark in Bristol and closeness of the sea has strong influence on the city’s maritime culture. This is apparent near the Harbourside, especially around the M Shed and on the riverside walk to Brunel’s SS Great Britain. Bristol has altogether 100 miles of waterways – interconnected rivers and canals to walk, cycle or explore on a boat or passenger ferry.
Making the infographic definitely inspired me to revisit Bristol and I think this green city will always remain close to my heart. 💚
If last week I ventured to cycle capital Amsterdam, then this week I decided to make an infographic of the city that is just a stone throw away from Tallinn where I am based. Helsinki is the closest city just about 80 km away on the ferry and with it’s island dotted coastline and cool nordic vibes offers a great alternative for long-distance urban walking.
What makes Helsinki a very attractive city for green minded walkers are its many islands. As an urban archipelago Helsinki spreads on around 330 islands including several nature reserves like Harakka island and a eco-minded car-free Suomenlinna sea fortress. According to My Helsinki the city offers many unique island hopping opportunities for walkers and cyclists.
Helsinki has altogether 123 km of coastline that includes more than 30 public beaches (some of them on islands). With fresh air flowing in from the sea, Helsinki’s air quality remains one of the cleanest in the world all year around. The city has many coastline promenades & paths to take in fresh sea air and the Southern Helsinki coastal path dotted with islands is especially beautiful.
Helsinki city centre is compact and if combined with public transport such as trams or public ferries, walking is really one of the best way to get around. Helsinki also has around 1200 km of cycle routes and cycling is becoming increasingly more popular. The City of Helsinki aims to increase sustainable transport by creating new light traffic bridges, one even the longest in Finland.
With around 1/3rd of the city being parks and green spaces, Helsinki really is one of the greenest capitals in Europe. Central Park, the largest park and urban forests in the city, covers 10 km2 in the middle of the Helsinki. Altogether Helsinki has 70 km2 of greenery to get out and explore, including 55 nature reserves for hiking and bird spotting.
I hope you like this week’s green city and I am certainly looking forward to explore Helsinki more this summer! ✌️
I wanted to try something new this week and decided to make a series of Green City graphics. The first destination I picked is Amsterdam – the city I have been meaning to visit for years, but never have. So hoping this might be the year 🤞 I’ve been doing some enjoyable guidebook reading and picked out couple of facts what makes Amsterdam a sustainable city.
Amsterdam has more bikes than people. Amsterdam is known as the biking capital of the world, but the bikes are now taking over the city. Currently nearly 873,000 people live in Amsterdam with more than 881,000 bikes. According to IAmsterdam majority of Amsterdammers cycle daily covering combined 2 million kilometres as they pedal along.
According to Lonely Planet Pocket Amsterdam guidebook Amsterdam has 100 km of waterways and a thriving houseboat community with 2500 boats. With the interconnected waterways Amsterdam is a perfect city to live in a boat and many boat owners are interested in sustainable living, turning their boats into energy efficient floating homes.
Amsterdam also has the most canals in the world with 165 canals (that’s more than Venice) and stunning total of 1753 bridges. The narrow canals and bridges make driving in the city difficult and this is why cycling and walking is the preferred method to get around for most Amsterdammers and visitors. The historic city planners couldn’t have done better!
Amsterdam has 30 parks, a forest and 400, 000 trees in parks and along the canal paths. Because Amsterdam is compact in size, this makes Amsterdam a very leafy city. Vondelpark is one of the most popular inner city parks and Amsterdam forest with it’s 1000 ha of green lushness definitely seems like a great place to spend a day.
I know I certainly am looking forward to my visit.