Mental maps refers to how people perceive urban spaces. For example, is a place far away or close by? How easy is it to get from point A to point B to point C? The concept of mental maps can also include places people frequent. A person with young children might have a lot of playgrounds in his or her mental map of their city, whereas the child-free music lover might know how to get to every small music venue.
Your mental map of your city or community will differ from other people’s. Whether you tend to walk, drive, take transit or bike will also affect your sense of distance.
Travelling underground–on submays or metros in particular–can distort people’s sense of distance and the relationships between places.
In London, it’s apparently quite common for people to take the tube only a few short stops because they don’t realize that their destination is close enough to walk. Metro maps tend to portray routes as straight lines, and often with all stops equidistant. Yet, in reality, the tracks often bend and some stops are closer together. Two places that look far apart on the metro map may only have a few blocks separating them.
In London new maps are being placed around the city helping Londoners (and presumably tourists) understand the spatial relationships differently. One goal is to get people walking both for their health and to relieve transit congestion. Apparently there has been a 5% increase in people walking in parts of London with the signs, and the number of people getting lost has dropped by 65%.
Does your city offer maps? Do they encourage you to walk?
Has seeing one affected your mental map of a city?