Transport for London has unveiled an ambitious pedestrian wayfinding system for the capital, designed by Applied Information Group. Nineteen ‘talking’ signs, which pedestrians can call and listen to on their phones or read conventionally, have been installed in Bond Street and surrounding roads in a £500000, three-month pilot scheme.
The maps, which also appear on bus stops and in leaflet form in Bond Street Tube station, use an intuitive ‘heads up’ design, whereby they are oriented to the position of the user rather than following the north-south axis. The maps also feature famous landmarks including stores, and mark pavements and walkways as well as roads. AIG was appointed in 2004 to look at pedestrian wayfinding in the capital and propose a blueprint for a new system. Its report, Legible London, found more than 32 signing systems for pedestrians in central London. ‘The plethora of ad hoc systems just creates confusion rather than helping pedestrians,’ says AIG creative director Tim Fendley. AIG has used TfL’s typeface New Johnston as the identifying font, and its ‘walker’ symbol as the marque for the vitreous enamel and steel signs.
However, TfL project director of travel demand management Ben Plowden warns that, unlike road signs, pedestrian way – finding should take account of the different flavours of London’s ‘villages’. ‘We need to be prepared to flex the design of the system to fit different areas,’ says Plowden. ‘The design process has not finished. The format will probably be adapted to look slightly different in different areas of London. Also, we need to be alive to the fact that this system has to evolve as technology evolves.’
TfL envisages that it will remain ‘design guardian’ of the project as it rolls out across London’s boroughs. If the system is installed across central London and in key out-of-town urban centres, the costs would run into the ‘tens of millions’, says Plowden. He hopes that private developers working on big urban regeneration projects, such as the planned development at Elephant & Castle, will pay for the system to be installed in their areas. So far, Richmond, Twickenham and Kew, South Bank Employers Group, Westminster and Camden councils want to roll out the system, says Plowden.