Monday, September 23, 2019

The Streets of London

The most interesting fact I know is that there are no roads in the City of London. I've been repeating this fact for years. This weekend I finally decided I should actually check for myself to see whether it is actually true or not.

To find out if there are any streets called 'Road' in the City of London I ran the following query in Overpass Turbo:

[out:json][timeout:185]; area["name"="City of London"]->.boundaryarea; ( way(area.boundaryarea) ["name"~" Road"];
out body;
out skel qt;

This query searches the area of the City of London on OpenStreetMap for any streets which end with 'Road'. The results turn up three roads; a section of Gray's Inn Road, a tiny bit of Farringdon Road and a section of Goswell Road.

I think both Farringdon Road and Gray's Inn Road can be dismissed as errors on OpenStreetMap. The terminating end of these roads seem to have been plotted to just a little bit within the boundary of the City of London. They therefore show up in a search of Overpass Turbo but the roads should really end at the border of the City. Goswell Road is a little more interesting as a small section of the road actually makes up the boundary of the City of London.

According to Londonist half of this section of Goswell Road is within the jurisdiction of the City of London,
"The Square Mile survived for hundreds of years without any Roads, right up until boundary changes in 1994. At that time, the eastern half of Goswell Road was brought — reluctantly we're told — under the jurisdiction of the City, while the western half remained in the Borough of Islington".
So since 1994 I've been repeating a false fact. The answer to the question:

"How many roads are there in the City of London?"

should in fact be:

"Half a road."

Having discovered that there was a half a road in London I decided to carry on and see how many 'avenues', 'streets', 'alleys', 'courts', 'lanes', 'rows' and 'hills' that there are in the City of London. I therefore ran Overpass Turbo queries for all of these different types of road within the City.

I've created an interactive map to show the results of those queries. On the Streets of London map all the roads in the City of London are colored by type. The map also includes a menu which allows you to select to view just an individual type of road on the map. So, for example, you can just select to view all the roads ending 'Street' in the City of London.

Using the map you can tell that many of the major thoroughfares in the City are called 'Street'. Lots of these major 'Streets' are connected by smaller 'Lanes'. The other types of roads appear to be less common. The roads ending in 'Hill' are quite interesting. The City of London has two small hills - Ludgate Hill to the west and Cornhill to the east. However there are lots of small roads whose names end 'Hill' running up from the River Thames. Presumably before the building of the Embankment the streets running up from the river had steeper inclines than they do today.

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