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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CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit citymonitor.ai going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.