London, England. One of the great cities. But is it a city for people?
Like any big city, London has its good and bad side. A recent visit helped me discover 5 great things about London – Walking, Parks, Capitalism, Food and Culture.
London – a city for walking
My wife, Arrti, and I arrived at Marylebone the Saturday before last for a day trip. First stop was Knightsbridge. And immediately one of central London’s great advantages displays itself – it’s a wonderful place to walk.
London may not have the pedestrianisation or comprehensive cycling infrastructure of Copenhagen, but there is beautiful architecture, historical monuments, and intriguing shops. All elements of what the great Danish architect Jan Gehl calls a Good City.
And then there are the parks.
London – a city of parks
The journey to Knightsbridge meandered through Hyde Park, past the famous Speakers’ Corner, the Serpentine and a parade of the Queen’s horses. There’s something special about a beautiful park in the middle of a bustling a city.
Hyde Park is one of many London parks – think Regents Park, Kensington Gardens and Richmond Park (Did you know Richmond Park is nearly 3 times bigger than New York’s Central Park?).
Can you imagine London without its beautiful parks? Unthinkable.
London – a city of capitalism
Capitalism is blamed for everything these days – environmental degradation, social woes and war. Is this fair? Maybe sometimes, but what about the flip side?
Capitalism has given many in the world unprecedented quality of life, historically rare peace in Europe and invaluable freedom.
Knightsbridge’s Harrods may flaunt the more excessive side of capitalism. But London as a whole, even after the recent economic strife, is the driving force behind England’s economy, bringing wealth to its people.
London – a city of food
Walking from Harrods, past Buckingham Palace and Victoria, we reached our next stop – About Thyme. A not-too-expensive restaurant with great ambience.
About Thyme is just one restaurant. In London your food options are unrivalled. From Cambden Market to China Town to Gordon Ramsey. Or you might prefer Tesco, Marks & Spencer, or a Hot Dog stand?
Your choice. In London you can have it all.
London – A city of culture
Our final stop is Piccadilly Circus to see the Michael Jackson tribute show, Thriller Live. Starring the fabulous Maria Lawson, of X-Factor fame. The show was excellent, but it was only the tip of London’s cultural iceberg.
Natural History Museum, Notting Hill Carnival, London Marathon, Changing of the Guard, any number of up and coming bands in local pubs. The list goes on and on.
Do you like cultural cities? I know I do.
London – a city for people?
As I wrote earlier, London isn’t perfect. Homeless people wander, the threat of terrorism looms, air pollution fills the lungs.
And I, for one, am frustrated with the British mentality of building cities too much for cars. I’d prefer London to follow the example of Jan Gehl’s Copenhagen, Jaime Lerner’s Curitiba, Enrique Peñalosa’s Bogota or Ilmar Reepalu’s Malmo – Pedestrians first, public transport and bicycles second, car third.
But overall I think London is a great city for people; one of the best. Walking, Parks, Capitalism, Food and Culture are 5 reason why; there are many others.
What do you think of London, and my 5 reasons for it being a city for people? Have you any others to add?
Update: See my related article, London’s 4 Steps to the Sustainable City.