Contactless but tactile


Technologies like automatic doors, sensor-controlled escalators and even contactless payments all allow us to glide through London without touching it—with our hands, that is.

We feel the city with our feet. Through the soles of our shoes we learn the texture of London’s uneven paving, lumpy tarmac and slippery cobbles. 

We also read the city with our feet. London’s street surfaces bear important messages, like the square pattern ‘blisters’ announcing road crossings and the offset blisters (pictured) by the edge of train platforms. Marvellously-named ‘corduroy paving’ signals a hazard such as a flight of stairs, whilst cycleway paving indicates the direction of travel. Visually impaired people will be fully literate in these textured warnings. For others they give a gentle nudge to pay attention and slow down or flow differently.

Increasingly we find tactile paving in areas where street signs, traffic lights, railings and kerbs have been removed to create flat ‘shared spaces’ for pedestrians and drivers. Touch, then, seems to be replacing visual cues as a way of controlling and warning us.

How we sense the city and how it affects us are themes that run through London In Slow MotionThe London Ear and A Power Walk. You’ll find dates and booking details here.