Would you like a running track in the Square Mile?
In a recent blog, I outlined proposals leaked to the FT but now approved by the City authorities. Emboldened by success, one councillor – John Edwards – has gone further. I bumped into him near his house in Church Entry. He told me his knees were sore from running and sore knees had led him to this idea. I support it. What follows is taken from John’s website “Square Mile Track”
As part of its Draft Sports and Physical Activity Strategy, Members of the City of London Common Council are considering a proposal for a smooth, soft-surface, running track that will be embedded in the footway to enhance the range of free sporting facilities available to those who visit, live and work in the City. The ‘SquareMileTrack’ is a 4.2km circuit that links open spaces along the Thames riverside with the Barbican Podium (1.5km high walk) and St Paul’s Cathedral, and traverses most of Culture Mile.
At present, there is an absence of free and open sports facilities in the City outside of cycling, and the dedicated cycle lanes which primarily serve the needs of commuter cyclists. The Sports Strategy seeks to address this situation, and the SquareMileTrack is a key initiative, promoting running and walking in the City. Councillor John Edwards is taking the idea forward, starting with a community consultation to test the idea and to gain initial feedback.
The intention was to produce and distribute a leaflet about the SquareMileTrack to residents, businesses and offices along the proposed route, and to talk through the proposals. However, due to the constraints imposed because of COVID-19, face-to-face consultations have been postponed. Instead, we are proceeding with an online consultation. This website provides an overview of our ideas about the SquareMileTrack including its route, air quality, appearance, construction materials and cost, and provides an online form for interested people and businesses to provide preliminary feedback and to contribute their own ideas.
The virus has had a significant impact on all of us, and has strongly underlined the importance of healthy and active lifestyles as a key factor in our physical and mental health, and the quality of our lives. The benefits of running and walking, at whatever age, are well documented and include a reduction in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, improved cardiovascular health, and improved sleep. Those who are physically active have a 40-50% reduction in the number of days they are ill with acute respiratory infections, which is a major symptom of coronavirus. The importance of healthy lifestyles, and the need for public facilities that provide opportunities for exercise, has been highlighted by the present situation.
The SquareMileTrack is a 4.2km loop linking open spaces along the Thames riverside with the Barbican Podium and St Paul’s Cathedral. It traverses most of Culture Mile, a vibrant arts and culture hub for the City from Farringdon to Moorgate. The route has been developed with due regard for the safety of runners and walkers, and the avoidance of conflict with pedestrians and vehicle traffic. The route has also been designed with reference to existing plans for footway works, which will facilitate its construction with the minimum of additional disruption and cost.
The route is broken down into the following sections:
|Route||Distance (m)||Obstructions||Tourist Sights|
|1||Peter’s Hill||290||Road crossing: Queen Victoria Street, stairs||Millennium Bridge|
|2||Thames Path||400||River Thames|
|4||New Bridge Street||240||Road crossing: Ludgate Circus|
|6||West Smithfield||310||Road crossing: West Smithfield||Museum of London|
|8||CharterHouse Street||220||Charterhouse Square|
|10||Aldersgate Street||100||Stairs up then pedestrian bridge|
|11||Barbican Podium||1130||Pedestrian bridge then stairs down||Barbican|
|12||Noble Street||180||Road crossing: Gresham Street||Ruins of London Wall|
|13||Foster Lane||220||Road crossing: Cheapside|
|14||St Paul’s Churchyard||410||Road crossing: St Paul’s Churchyard||St Paul’s Cathedral|
The extent of planned footway works within the next decade are indicated in blue in the distance column above, with the works totalling 58% of the proposed route.
Urban Running Tracks
A running track in the Square Mile will add to the many facilities provided by the City, which collectively make it an appealing location for businesses and their staff, as well as for local residents and visitors. In considering the demand for and benefits of the project, Councillors have been looking at examples of urban running tracks at other locations. These include resin-coated tarmac ‘Fitness Tracks’ installed by Westminster Council in three Embankments Gardens, rooftop running tracks at Old Street and Distaff Lane, EC4V 5JT on the new FT building and synthetic running tracks in Budapest, Dubai, Monaco and Moscow installed by UK company Conica.
Running and walking is among the least expensive fitness activities for individuals and groups. However, we know that many people are discouraged from outdoor exercise, and particularly running, due to uneven stone footpaths, kerbs and other trip hazards. The closest alternative soft-surface running location to the City is St James Park, which is more than 15 minutes travel time by public transport, and impractical for many City workers whose time available is limited. A smooth, regular and clearly defined running surface has the potential to overcome such barriers and encourage more people to incorporate exercise into their daily lives. At a distance of 4.2km, the SquareMileTrack is suited to most runners and walkers, and is comparable to many initiatives such as the increasingly popular Couch to 5k, and the Saturday morning Parkrun which is also 5km.
This website includes further details of the SquareMileTrack proposal covering pedestrian congestion, air quality, aesthetics, cost and synthetic rubber versus York stone.
At present the SquareMileTrack is an idea, but it is an idea that has been enthusiastically received by Members of the City of London Common Council. It is also an idea that needs considerable testing with local residents and businesses; and we very much want to hear what people think; whether they support the idea, have alternative suggestions or if they have concerns or objections.
Councillor John Edwards is coordinating the consultation process. Please complete the survey which provides the opportunity for feedback and comment. You can also email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not wish to have your comments made public on this website. If there is a positive response, we will formally approach the Director of the Built Environment (Highway Operations) to determine the most appropriate and compliant way forward.
Note that while it is possible to submit a planning application for properties that are not owned by the submitter, the geographic area covered by the SquareMileTrack is considerable. There is a procedure and legislation for a community to create a single-issue Neighbourhood Forum that would lead to a referendum on the project, and this is a possibility given a running track in the City is consistent with the Draft City Plan 2036 as indicated by these extracts.
The authorship of all form entries and emailed responses will be held in the strictest confidence. We will provide on the SquareMileTrack website continuously updated results of the survey, including comments entered on the form, in order to keep members of the public fully informed of everyone’s opinion of this SquareMileTrack proposal.