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Matt Blease on walking in London

Matt Blease has recently created the cover designs for a series of walking guides to London. Commissioned by Transport for London, the guides aim to encourage people to get about in the capital on foot rather than in cars. They get to discover more about the city and help reduce pollution at the same time. A win-win. Matt is based in London himself, commuting each day to his Greenwich studio by boat, and, like many Londoners, is concerned about the levels of pollution in the city.

We asked Matt [and TfL] about the project:

How did you hear about the guides?

I hadn’t heard about them until I went into chat to TfL.

Why did the TfL team approach you?

I’d been ranting to Olivia at Breed about air pollution in London. When TfL mentioned the project she suggested I would be a good fit.

Had you and TfL worked together before?

We hadn’t! I hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Which areas are being covered by the first guides?

Old Street, North Bank and Brixton.

Will more guides be added in the future? 

I think they’re in the pipeline.

Did you volunteer your services straight away?

I’ve been waiting for a TfL job for a while and, typically, they all came at once.

Are you a native Londoner?

I’m not, I’ve been here for almost 15 years.

Have you noticed an increase in pollution in London?

I think everyone has. It’s a real worry. I think that people are much more aware of the situation and really pushing for a change.

Do you often walk in London yourself?

Yes, every day. It’s such an amazing city to navigate by foot. Never a dull moment!

Are you prone to long wanders in the city?

I am indeed. Often with headphones on. You can kind of lose yourself in the motion and rhythm of the walk… ha, that sounds so ridiculous… but there is something really rewarding about covering long distances with your own two feet.

What’s your favourite London walk?

I’ve loved the walk from Greenwich along the river to North Greenwich Pier over the past few years. For a long time it was so untouched, you’d be making your way through old abandoned ship yards and aggregate quarrys thinking ‘am I allowed to be here?’. It’s been fascinating and a little bit sad seeing it change.

Will you be using these guides yourself?

Definitely. I think even if you know an area well, these guides should show you something surprising that you may well have passed by until now.

Here’s what the team at TfL had to say also..

How did you choose Matt Blease to design the covers?

We first heard about Matt’s work through his agency Breed and really liked his playful puns.

What was the aim of the guides?

We want our city to be a world leader in creating healthy streets – where walking and cycling is an easy and obvious choice for everyone. The Mayor of London in his Transport Strategy has boldly set out his ambition for people to walk 20 minutes each day, and the health benefits to Londoners achieving this would be substantial.  Our Legible London maps help people find out for themselves how easy and fun it can be getting around and exploring London on foot. And helping Londoners find their way around, encourages more people to make walking a part of their everyday journeys.

You’ve covered North Bank, Old Street and Brixton with the guides issued so far. Which areas do you have lined up for future guides?

No plans for any maps in the future right now. These are special edition ten year anniversary maps, and they are also download-able for self-print!

Who decides what to highlight in each guide?

TfL, the boroughs and business partners consider landmarks that are popular, have the widest appeal and are within a certain walking distance of the guide.

One of the aims of the guides is to help reduce traffic pollution. What other actions are TfL taking to cut pollution in London?

As well as encouraging people to walk, the Mayor of London and TfL have ambitious plans for improving air quality in London. For example, reducing emissions from buses so that all double-decker buses operating in the central Ultra Low Emission Zone comply with Euro VI Standard by 2019, ensuring no diesel taxis are granted a first time licence in London from 1 January 2018, and working to make London’s entire road transport system zero emission by 2050 at the latest.