Facebook users helped a woman count the number of Tube platforms for her train-obsessed son

One of Russell Square's two platforms. Image: GTD Aquitaine at Wikimedia Commons.

There's a small chance that, as a committed reader of CityMetric, you occasionally think we write about metros a little too much. But today, we came across a story that we feel justifies our affection for them, and for London's Tube - and its users - in particular. 

Earlier this week, user Laura Flora posted a request on the Facebook group Shit London, usually used to document "the unintentional human comedy of the city" via photographs of stupid pop-ups, inexplicable shop windwows and the like. Laura's post, however, was slightly out of the group's standard remit: her 23-year-old autistic son "who is OBSESSSED with trains" wanted to know exactly how many platforms there are at each station on the entire London Underground. So, instead of reconciling herself to a years-long odyssey to find out, she turned to the kindness of the internet.

From her original post: 

I would REALLY like to not have to spend the next 3 months of my life getting on and off trains counting platforms, so how about if you are at a tube station you could count the platforms if you can see them and tell me which line you are on and North/South/East or Westbound.

I am aware that this is a tall order. But I would like to buy a massive wall poster and be able to put notes at each and every station. Unless someone works for the underground and knows that a list exists somewhere with this information.

First, some technical background, before you jump down our throats: TfL has indeed released 3D maps of every London Underground station which would allow you to count the platforms, but, as Laura explains in her post, "autism doesn't work in black and white. He will have to know who went to which station" to be satisfied with the final result. 

So how did the group respond? Incredibly rapidly, and to an impressively high level of detail:

Within 24 hours, Laura had 700 responses. Over the past few days, she has collected the responses and kept a running tally of what stations are still to be completed. Yesterday, only three days on from her original post, she had data for every station on the network. She has also been offered large Underground maps, of the kind on display in Tube stations, so she can log the number of stations and any notes by each station for her son, who is slightly visually impaired. She's also planning to note down the names of everyone who helped in the map's border. 

Laura posted a thank you to Shit London when the last station was filled in: 

You have no idea of the impact that you've had, and of the hours and hours of pleasure that you will bring to a young man's life. He will never move on from trains and I am going to make sure that this map is available to him forever... I know that he will get a huge kick out of memorising it (and telling me how many platforms there are at each station when we tube travel for eternity)

...Shit London, you aren't shit at all.

We have contacted Laura for comment and have also asked for a picture of the map when it's finished - don't deny it, we know you're dying to see. 

 
 
 
 

Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.