When you come to London, one of the first things you will familiarise yourself with is the map of the London Underground, also called “the tube”. Colour-coded, it is easy to navigate:
However, this map is also quite misleading as it is NOT an accurate depiction of the underground network, and even less of London. In order to be easy to read, it has been simplified to the maximum:
- You probably would have guessed that the lines are not completely straight in reality.
- This map is absolutely out of scale:
- Because most people travel in the centre and because there are more stations in this part of London, the centre shows as larger than the outskirts.
- The distances between the stations are also not to scale.
- Some distances appear worth taking the underground, but the stations are really within walking distance (Charing Cross to Embankment or Leicester Square to Covent Garden are only a few hundred meters and a short walk away from each other; definitely faster than going down the escalator, waiting for a train and going back up the escalator).
- What looks like the same station are often two or three parts of one station that share the same name but will take you up to 10 minutes to walk from one part of the station to the other (for example Paddington or Elephant & Castle).
This is one of the most abstract and distorted, yet also one of the most used maps in the world, demonstrating that accuracy can be an undesired feature for a map. The reality would look more like this:
My advice to visitors of London: Walk or use the bike. It’s the only way to really get to know the city, not only in its realistic geography but especially in its colourful diversity.