16 things we learned from a list of every single road name in Great Britain

"The Street With No Name" in Levenshulme, which sadly isn't on the list because it doesn't actually have a name.

1) There are about 790,000 roads with names in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Ordnance Survey Open Names database lists 788,340 roads with a name, from Aachen Way in Halifax to Zurich Gardens in Bramhall.

2) The most common suffix in a road name is, unsurprisingly, ‘Road’

But only a fifth of roads (about 160,000) are called “Something Road”: 15 per cent are Closes, 10 per cent are Streets, 8 per cent are Lanes and 6 per cent are Avenues.

3) The most popular road name in the UK is probably what you would have guessed it would be

Drumroll please for....

“High Street”

...of which there are 2,453. Followed by Station Road (2,023), Church Lane (1,868), Church Street (1,521) and Mill Lane (1,318). This finally, conclusively proves that trains are better than Jesus AND mills.

4) The road with the longest name is in the New Forest

Congratulations, “Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive”: you did it!

(Not counting ‘names’ that include bracketed or other alternative names. Or ‘Woodpecker Crescent Woodpecker Crescent’ in Burgess Hill, which is presumably an error rather than some quirky bit of Sussex-based self-referentialism.)


5) The road with the shortest name is in Somerset

Rye, a road in the village of Puriton in Somerset, unexcitingly named after the green thing it runs past.

It does, debatably, have some competition: the MediaCity complex in Salford is so trendy that it has colours instead of road names, which means there’s a road listed under the name “Red” in the Ordnance Survey database.

There’s also an “Alt” in Widnes but that’s an abbreviation for “Alternate” which is a very normal thing to name a road. Good job, Widnes.

6) There are places with plenty of roads, but very few Roads

As noted in CityMetric only last week, the City of London may be the most famous example of a place with “no roads” (i.e. no roads named Somethingorother Road; although sadly this is no longer technically true, curse your eyes, Goswell Road).

One posited explanation is that incorporating the word Road into a road name is a modern enough concept that the layout of the City predates it.

7) The second most roadless place in the UK sits at the other end of urban history

In Milton Keynes, only 4 per cent of named roads are Roads. When the town was laid out in the 1960s it was decided the horizontal roads of its innovative grid system would be Ways, and the vertical roads Streets: but the majority of the roads are actually the smaller suburban Closes, Courts, Places & Drives that lie within the box of each grid.

No, this is very interesting actually.

Okay, fine.

8) Fanny Hands Lane

LOL! Image: Chris/Geograph/creative commons.

9) If you think Milton Keynes has an overly methodical road naming scheme, check out this estate near Southampton

Image: Google Maps.

Roads that run one way are A Avenue, B Avenue, C Avenue, D Avenue, E A… you get the idea. Roads that run the other are 1st Street, 2nd Street and so on. I'm coming up, so you better get this party started!

10) Scotland is the home of the Place

For example, “Place” is the most common suffix in East Kilbride, appearing in 17 per cent of road names. It’s also in more than 10 per cent of the road names of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.

11) There’s a North/South divide between Streets and Roads

Obligatory map:

 

 

There are more Streets than Roads in much of the North: Oldham and Burnley are more than 45 per cent Street. Meanwhile on the south coast, Bournemouth only has one. And it’s not even a very good one.

 

Orchard Street in Bournemouth. Cowabunga! Image: Chris Downer/Geograph/creative commons.

12) Blackpool is 30% Avenues

An avenue is usually a road with lots of trees. This randomly selected avenue in Blackpool has hardly any:

Image: Google Maps.

What’s up, Blackpool? What did you do with all the trees?

13) Gateshead is 18% Gardens

Maybe that’s what the Gates are for!!!!! HA HA.

14) There’s no road called ‘The Road’

But there are 595 “The Street”s and 578 “The Avenue”s. What a creative island we are.

15) Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

Image: Google Maps.

 

16) There’s a road called “Burnt Dick Hill”

Image: Google Maps.

Ow.

Ed Jefferson works for the internet and tweets as @edjeff.

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Vanilla Skybus: George Romero and Pittsburgh’s metro to nowhere

A prototype Skybus on display near Pittsburgh. Image: BongWarrior/Wikimedia Commons.

The late director George A Romero’s films are mainly known for their zombies, an association stretching from his first film, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, to his last as director, 2009’s Survival of the Dead.

But many of them are also a record of Pittsburgh, the city he lived and worked in, and other locations in the state of Pennsylvania in the late 20th century. Martin (1978), for example, isn’t just a movie about a kid who thinks he’s a vampire: it’s a moving portrayal of the post-industrial decay of the Pittsburgh borough of Braddock.

Though born in New York, Romero studied in Pittsburgh and stayed in the city after graduation, shooting commercials as part of the successful Latent Image agency. It was in collaboration with advertising colleagues that he shot his debut Night of the Living Dead. On both that movie and subsequent films, Romero and his colleagues used their experience and connections from the agency to secure cheap and striking locations around the city and state. 

It’s in Romero’s little-seen second film, 1971’s romantic drama There’s Always Vanilla, that a crucial scene touches on a dead end in the history of urban transport in Steel City.

In the scene Vietnam vet Chris, only recently returned to town after a failed music career, sees his father off on a train platform, after an evening where Chris got his dad stoned and set him up with a stripper. (It was the early 1970s, remember.) An odd little two-carriage metro train pulls up on an elevated concrete platform, Chris’ father rides away on it, and then Chris literally bumps into Lynn, whom he then both gaslights and negs. (It was the ‘70s.) You can see the scene here.

A screenshot from There's Always Vanilla, showing the Skybus through a chain link fence.

If you don’t live in Pittsburgh, you might assume that funny little train, still futuristic forty years on, is just an everyday way of getting around in the exciting New World. Who knows what amazing technology they have over there, right?

In fact, the Transit Expressway Revenue Line, more snappily referred to as the Skybus, not only doesn’t exist today: it hardly existed at all, beyond what we see in that short scene. In the 1960s there were plans to replace Pittsburgh’s street car system with a more up to date urban transit system. The Skybus – driverless, running on rubber tires on an elevated concrete track with power provided with an under rail system – drew enough support from the Port Authority and Federal Government for them to fund a short demonstration track at the Allegheny County Fair, at that point a local institution.

It’s this demonstration track and train that appears in There’s Always Vanilla. Film makers love isolated systems like this, or the UK’s many heritage railways, because they allow for multiple takes and a controlled environment. So it made sense for Romero to use this local curio rather than seek access to an in-use station.


The sequence in Vanilla shows that the Skybus system worked, and as a potential metro system it looks quite striking to this day with its curved windows and distinctive logo. But the proposed system wasn’t popular with everyone, and cost concerns and political wrangling stalled the project – until it was finally rejected in favour of a more conventional steel wheel on steel rail transit system.

The demonstration track was pulled up in 1980, although the small station and platform seen in the movie remains: Romero expert Lawrence Devincentz narrates a photo tour of the building on the blu ray of There’s Always Vanilla.

Vanilla was renamed and barely seen on release, but is now available as part of a boxset of Romero’s early works from Arrow Video, in ridiculously pristine 2K digital transfer. The Skybus is there too, a curio of Pittsburgh history caught on a few short minutes of film. Neglected back then, both seem considerably more interesting now.

‘There’s Always Vanilla’ is available on blu ray as part of Arrow’s ‘George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn’ box set, and will receive a standalone release later this year.

Mark Clapham used to work in rail regulation, but now writes things like this. He tweets as @markclapham.