(Last month Jason and I spent two weeks in England. I’ll be posting a series of entries about the trip, with photos, over the next few weeks.)
Our UK adventure began in London, where I was attending a symposium. We stayed there for eight days, in the Fitzrovia area. Instead of a hotel, we stayed in one of the residences for University College London, Astor College. So, basically, we stayed in a dorm, which was a bit strange. We had a little fridge in our room, but had to share a bathroom. It was inexpensive by London standards, at least.
Astor College is well-located; we could easily walk to the British Library, the British Museum, and quite a few other attractions, and down Charlotte Street, just a few minutes from the residence, there were a ton of interesting restaurants. There were several Tube stations within easy walking distance as well.
One of the things I noticed quickly was that there were no SUVs in London. I think we saw one all week; it belonged to the university and was parked. I did not see a single one driving.
We did see a lot of Smart cars and various electric cars, which would be pretty useful in London traffic. (Apparently the electric cars are exempt from London’s congestion charge, too.) The cars pictured here were parked a couple of blocks away from Astor College, and there were actually 5 of them on the block at the time we took this picture — three parked, and two driving down the street! I think they are probably Reva G-Wiz cars.
Though little cars like this would be useful in London, really, cars were not too necessary. The tube lines cover most of the area, and the “black cabs” are everywhere as well. It is very easy to get around there, and I can easily imagine living there without a car. (However, there are some access problems if you are mobility impaired. It is not a very accessible city. Lots of stairs.) People seem to walk everywhere.
Something else I noticed that might be related to that: very few overweight people. There were some. Some were clearly tourists, some were not. But in general, the percentage of overweight people walking the streets of London was lower than the percentage of overweight people seen on the streets or in the malls of Seattle. I read earlier today (and now I can’t find the URL or I’d link it) that the UK has the highest national level of obesity — after America. (Where does Canada fit in, I wonder?) But even so, the population seemed noticeably more fit. Of course, we were in one of the most walkable cities in the world. The story might be different in other areas, where people need to rely more on their cars. Though we did notice that even suburbs were more dense and compact and less-strictly zoned than American suburbs, making them far more pedestrian-friendly.