Friday, August 5, 2011

Where the 23rd and Broadway am I?!

TLOML is probably not alone in being an American who finds British street names a little confusing. You know how Charing Cross Road turns into Tottenham Court Road and then Hampstead Road, even though it's all one long road really? And Charlotte Street, Charlotte Mews and Charlotte Place all being jumbled up together with practically the same name? I know, it doesn't confuse me either, but apparently it is not very user-friendly.

Think of American cities as being nice and easy to navigate, with logical street names and shapes? So did I.

After all, America invented the user-friendly street plan. All those nice numbered streets, and the lovely clear system in NYC where avenues run North/ South, and streets run East/ West. It certainly helps to be planning cities long after civilisation evolved, and have the benefit of hindsight. (I'm quite sure if London had been developed later it would be rather more logical, and not so much oriented by the location of ancient hedges and ditches.)

And yet... I'm about to blow the US town planners' cover.

Look at this street. On the map it looks like Duane Street, which, true to form, runs right across a good long stretch of Downtown Manhattan. And yet... up close, this little block of Duane Street has no fewer than four separate names.

Depending on which sign catches your eye, you might think you are on any of:
1. Duane Street
2. Federal Plaza
3. FBI Special Agent Leonard W Hatton Jr Street
4. Paul O'Dwyer Place

'Hey Marcie, I'm here on Federal Plaza like we said! Are you here?'
'Oh shoot! I'm on FBI Special Agent Leonard W Hatton Jr Street, I must have missed the turning'.

Is it me, or is that confusing?

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