This new mapping tool lets you decide where you think your city should end

Not every city is kind enough to put up a sign. Image: Getty.

Where cities end and something else – suburbs, exurbs, countryside begins is a source of practically infinite disagreement. Is Sunderland a part of Newcastle? The Black Country an extension of Birmingham? The resulting arguments are great if you're a cities-focused website with traffic targets to meet, but not so great I'd you're trying to come up with a sensible devotion policy.

One way of settling the debate, of course, is to just ask people. So that's what Alasdair Rae, a lecturer in the geography department of the University of Sheffield, has done. He's created this mapping tool under the headline “Draw your city - go on, you know you want to”:

This is a little experiment to crowdsource information on the area you think different cities cover, in addition to a little information on how long you've lived there - if at all. Zoom in or out if you need to and then click 'Start Mapping' in the top left of the screen.

Sometimes official city boundaries extend far beyond the urban fabric, and sometimes they don't include very much of it at all. I want to see what people consider to be part of their city, or not. All the drawn boundaries on this site come from your contributions.

It's a work in progress – but you can already see some of the results. With London, the most popular boundary seems to be the M25 orbital motorway. That said, some seem to think London should either exclude most of the outer suburbs, or swallow large chunks of the south east. One brave soul even seems determined to stick to the ancient City of London:

In Glasgow, too, there's a division between those who think only the inner city really counts, and those who'd include large chunks of the surrounding counties:

With Birmingham, no one seems sure what to do with Wolverhampton, Coventry or the rest of the West Midlands urban area:

Things are no clearer in the north of England – although so far there are more takers for defining Manchester or Sheffield than there are for tackling Liverpool or Leeds:

Others have been drawing boundaries internationally. Here are some proposed definitions of New York City and Philadelphia:

In Paris, the traditional city boundary is clearly more popular than the attempts to create the Metropole de Grand Paris:

It's not clear everyone's taking this entirely seriously, though:

(Rae deleted the offending boundary, but not before tweeting a screenshot.)

You can draw a line around the city of your choice on Rae's website here. Go on. You know you want to. 

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.


At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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