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Legible London

Research

Legible London is underpinned by extensive research.

On this page:

Legible London – a wayfinding study

This study, published in 2006, has provided the basis for Legible London. It found that:

  • Walking can lead to major benefits for the transport system, economy and public health
  • Predictable, consistent and authoritative public information is the key to building pedestrians' confidence

The report also found that the many pedestrian signage systems in central London are incoherent and often confusing. As a result, many people rely on the Tube map to find their way around above ground. Although the Tube map design is ideal for helping people complete their journey on the Underground, it isn't designed for walking and doesn't represent the exact locations of stations, or distances between destinations.

The report recommends:

  • A wayfinding system that supports the process of 'mental mapping'
  • A central, constantly-evolving map could provide the basis for printed maps, signage and other technologies used by the public across London

Download the Legible London wayfinding study report (PDF 3.71MB)

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Mapping out London

The Legible London approach is based on the theory of 'mental mapping'. Research has shown that we all build maps in our heads to find our way around, based on familiar locations and routes that are relevant to our journeys. The strength of our mental map often determines the confidence we have in walking to our destination.

Legible London aims to give people the information and landmark prompts they need to encourage and develop the natural mental mapping process.

We use the following categories to help people get their bearings:

Areas
Broad areas of the Capital, such as the West End and the City.

Villages
Including places such as Covent Garden, Soho and Marylebone, 'villages' are commonly used names which can help pedestrians quickly relate one part of London to another. Several villages make up an area.  

Neighbourhoods
Within each village, there are a number of 'neighbourhoods'. For example, in Covent Garden, you’ll find Seven Dials, Neal's Yard and Long Acre. As you become more familiar with a particular place, the more you can keep sub-dividing it into smaller, linked pieces, creating a more detailed mental map.

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Accessibility

We've been working with a range of organisations representing disability groups to ensure the Legible London design is as inclusive as possible.

For example, the Legible London maps show steps, pavement widths and pedestrian crossings, which are important for visually-impaired people, wheelchair users and others with limited mobility.

You can find out more about the design features that help to make Legible London accessible in the Maps and signs section.

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Pilot evaluation results

A comprehensive evaluation of the Legible London pilots has revealed some very positive results:

  • 87 per cent of users supported the roll-out of the system across London
  • Pedestrian satisfaction with local wayfinding improved by 22 per cent, following the introduction of Legible London (from 61 to 83 per cent)
  • 83 per cent of users agreed Legible London helped them to find their way
  • More than two-thirds felt satisfied that they could use Legible London to find the shortest route for their journey
  • More than three-quarters felt confident in exploring an area with Legible London
  • The number of pedestrians getting lost on a journey fell by 65 per cent
  • Those who have used the system indicated strongly that it will encourage them to walk more often, walk further, explore more and walk rather than use other means of transport

These results are based on around 1000 user surveys, pedestrian counts, and a number of ‘mystery shopper’ and accompanied walks.

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Bond Street prototype research

The results from the Bond Street area prototype evaluation showed that: 

  • Pedestrian journeys in the Bond Street area were quicker by 16 per cent on average
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents said the new system would encourage them to walk more
  • Nine out of 10 interviewees felt the system should be implemented across London
  • Providing information on likely walking times and distances, as the Legible London maps do, helps encourage walking

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