If you ever fancy a bit of publicity, chuck out a new tube map.
TfL uploaded this one on Friday. A new tube map showing the distance in steps between Underground stations.
An embargoed press release was duly sent to trusted media, and yesterday these media trumpeted the new map to the world.
"Transport for London has released a new Tube map showing the distance in steps between Underground stations," said the Evening Standard. "A new map of the London Underground has been created to show travellers exactly how close stations are in the centre of the capital and get them walking across the city instead," said City AM. "The new version of the iconic map shows how many steps there are between all stations in zones one and two," said The Sun. "We already have a map which shows us the walking times, but this new version gives us an indication of how much closer we can get to that elusive 10,000 steps a day if we hop off a stop or two early," said Time Out. "Sadiq Khan hopes the map will be a fun and practical way to help busy Londoners who want to make walking part of their everyday lives," said the Huffington Post. "We hope that the new steps version of the Tube map will inspire people to try new routes and discover that places in central London are closer than they might think," said Ben Plowden, Director of Surface Strategy and Planning at TfL, in the Daily Telegraph. "Click here to see full map," said the Metro.
If you rejig all the published versions and spot the common phrases you can almost recreate the story TfL sent out in the first place.
But what nobody pointed out is that the new map is exactly the same as the old map, except with all the numbers increased by a factor of 100. If the time in minutes was 5 then the number of steps is 500. If the time in minutes was 12 then the number of steps is 1200. If the time in minutes was 144 then the number of steps is 14400. Virtually no effort whatsoever has been expended in creating the new map, other than multiplying all the original numbers by 100. But in this fitness-app-oriented world, it turns out that steps can be more relevant than minutes, hence everyone's excited, and the Media team have another super-shareable success on their hands.
At the same time, TfL also uploaded another document to their Walking page, a list of Journeys that could be quicker to walk. If you've been a London blogger for a while you'll know this list is gold-dust, indeed a post I once wrote on the subject earned me more visitors than almost anything else I've ever written. Now TfL have finally released an official list, confirming at last that it's only 5 minutes to walk from Bayswater to Queensway, and 49 other journeys. It has equal billing to the other two maps on TfL's Walking page, and is a true social media Holy Grail. But none of the media outlets noticed.
OK, Ian Visits noticed, and he naturally wrote something non-generic, and he questioned the data. But all the other media stories I've seen have parroted the line that the steps map is new and exciting, and that it'll help Londoners be fitter and make better choices, and have completely overlooked the alternative list of stations. Perhaps journalists are no longer paid to notice things, or perhaps they no longer have the time.
Whatever, TfL's list of Central London journeys that could be quicker to walk is very interesting, and highly colourful, but perhaps not presented in the most practical form. All 50 journeys are presented in alphabetical order and in one direction only, so for example the three journeys that start or finish at Regent's Park aren't easy to spot. I doubt that many people are going to slog through the pdf and exclaim "oh, it seems my journey could be quicker to walk". A map might be nice, except these are journeys between stations not on the same line so a map could get messy.
What follows isn't the best way to present the data either. But I am excited to finally be able to present the official list of Central London tube journeys where it would be quicker to walk.
50 journeys between stations in zone 1 and 2 (not on the same line) where it would be quicker to walk
2 minutes (200 steps): Great Portland Street → Regent's Park 3 minutes (300 steps): 4 minutes (400 steps): Bank → Cannon Street 5 minutes (500 steps): Bank → Mansion House, Bayswater → Queensway; Great Portland Street → Warren Street 6 minutes (600 steps): 7 minutes (700 steps): Regent's Park → Warren Street 8 minutes (800 steps): All Saints → Blackwall; Barbican → St Paul's; Bethnal Green → Whitechapel; Bethnal Green → Stepney Green; Cannon Street → St Paul's; Chancery Lane → Farringdon; Clapham High Street → Clapham Common; Covent Garden → Tottenham Court Road; Goldhawk Road → Shepherd's Bush; Hampstead Heath → Belsize Park; Kentish Town West → Chalk Farm; New Cross → Deptford Bridge; South Hampstead → Finchley Road 9 minutes (900 steps): Blackfriars → St Paul's; Charing Cross → Westminster 10 minutes (1000 steps): Hackney Central → London Fields; Lambeth North → Southwark; Royal Oak → Warwick Avenue; Shepherd's Bush → Wood Lane 11 minutes (1100 steps): Blackfriars → Southwark; Camden Road → Mornington Crescent; Covent Garden → Temple; Farringdon → St Paul's; Finchley Road & Frognal → Hampstead; Goodge Street → Great Portland Street; Holborn → Temple; Rectory Road → Clapton 12 minutes (1200 steps): Barbican → Chancery Lane; Blackfriars → Chancery Lane; Borough → Southwark; Edgware Road → Marble Arch, Euston Square → Goodge Street; Goodge Street → Russell Square; Great Portland Street → Oxford Circus; Kentish Town West → Camden Town; Queensway → Royal Oak; Shoreditch High Street → Old Street; Shoreditch High Street → Liverpool Street; South Hampstead → St John's Wood 13 minutes (1300 steps): Edgware Road → Marble Arch; Goodge Street → Regent's Park 14 minutes (1400 steps): Chancery Lane → Temple; Edgware Road → Lancaster Gate; Latimer Road → Shepherd's Bush
This may be TfL's official list, but it's not complete. Where's Lancaster Gate to Paddington, which is one of the most useful shortcuts of all, cutting off a huge diversion the distorted tube map doesn't show? Where's Warren Street to Euston Square, which is an even briefer walk? Where's Euston to Euston Square, and Aldgate to Aldgate East, or has somebody at TfL assumed we're bright enough to spot that these pairs of stations must be close? More sensibly I'm assuming anything marked as an interchange on the tube map is missing, which is why White City to Wood Lane and Bow Church to Bow Road (and others) don't appear.
Omissions aside, this is indeed a potentially useful list, and one which might well inspire some Londoners to keep fitter by walking rather than taking the tube. It's also information which could easily be displayed prominently at relevant tube stations, for example at Warren Street announcing that Great Portland Street was 5 minutes walk away and Regent's Park 7. Imagine a big sign by the station entrance directing would-be passengers elsewhere via a quicker walking route. You might think TfL mad for encouraging folk not to use their services, but anything that reduces congestion underground is generally a good thing.
Just don't go thinking that the Walking steps map is new and exciting, because London's seen it before, and London forgets so easily.