During winter, when there are coughs and colds around, it’s a relief to escape the confines of the tube and walk around in the fresh air instead. And during summer, when the sun is shining, it’s no fun to be trapped underground in a sweaty, stuffy train. If you add to that rising fares, delays and pollution, there are plenty of good reasons to cut your tube journey short and walk between stations instead. I’m sure more people would do it if they realised how close together some of the stations are. It takes much less time than you would think and, in some cases, is actually quicker than taking the tube.
But it can be hard to find information about this, especially for visitors to the city. London Underground has signs on Piccadilly Line trains encouraging passengers to get off at Holborn or Leicester Square and walk to Covent Garden. But this is simply to tackle overcrowding, and they don’t encourage walking anywhere else. I suppose it’s not really in their interests!
One problem is that the tube map is designed for clarity rather than geographical accuracy, so it distorts the distances between stations. Rodcorp has added lines to the map showing all the stops that are less than 500 metres apart on the ground. This is a good reference which alerts you, at a glance, to where it would probably be quicker to walk.
If you’re looking for more detailed information about how long it takes to walk between stations, you can thank students at Central Saint Martin’s College. They have timed all the journeys in Zone 1 on foot and mapped the results. To achieve these times, you need to be going along at a brisk pace rather than having a leisurely stroll! But sometimes the beauty of walking is that you get to see and enjoy things you would have missed if you’d stayed underground. You experience and understand more of the city, and get to know it better.
Getting fit is another good reason to walk. There are clear health benefits from keeping active and hopping off a couple of stops early each day could help you lose weight gained from those little excesses. A man can burn off the calories in a pint of beer by walking between Waterloo and Bermondsey, and a woman can burn off the calories from a glass of wine by walking from Waterloo to Leicester Square.
If this seems like a good incentive to walk, you might like to consult the tube map drawn up by PruHealth.co.uk. It shows the number of steps between stations, calculated by volunteers wearing pedometers. To cut our risk of getting strokes, heart disease and cancer, the British Heart Foundation says we should walk 10,000 steps a day, so how many could you clock up if you got off the tube?
If you’re unsure about directions you can check your route on WalkIt.com before you leave the house. For those who are planning to foot it around a bit, I’d recommend getting a folded paper pocket-sized map of the centre of the city. You can buy them for a pound or so at most tube stations and it’s much easier than lugging around a big A-Z.