Will Dean's Ideas Factory: London's streets are not as walkable as you'd think

Last week we looked at how the Art Walk had helped bring crowds back into downtown LA. And it's true that there's a correlation between cities where walking is easy (New York) and demographic plus points (income, high-tech firms, number of creatives, etc).

But an article by The Atlantic's Richard Florida suggests that walk-able cities aren't always the most obvious ones, ie West Hollywood in car-drunk LA. So how do big cities in the UK rank? I asked Adam Davies whose website Walkonomics collects UK "walkability data":

"If you take the 10 largest places in the UK, London comes a way down, about eighth. But if you look deeper, some of the most walkable areas are contained within the London data, like Covent Garden. Less surprisingly, the least walk- able cities are the ones that were built or redesigned around the car: like Milton Keynes and Bracknell. We're lucky that a lot of our street patterns are very old – we're at an advantage because our cities were built around walking."

Walkonomics.com; ind.pn/surpwalk

Own goals: the odd trend of bankrupt sports stars

A 2009 report by the US magazine Sports Illustrated revealed that nearly 80 per cent of NFL players and 60 per cent of NBA players find themselves broke just five years after ending their careers.

It's due to the "lottery win" effect of young men – often untrained for anything else – splurging at their sporting peak and having no means to fund their lifestyles after the mega wages stop. But do Premier League footballers have the same problem? A quick online search suggests so, with high-profile players such as Brad Friedel, John Arne Riise and Colin Hendry having declared bankruptcy. But does it compare? Not according to the head of the Professional Footballers' Association. "We have nothing like that [amount]" Gordon Taylor says. "We're very quick to stress that it's an eight-year career and they've got to prepare for life after it."

The PFA runs a wide range of post-career training schemes, money advice and hardship funds. But, as in the NFL, it can be the big earners who fall the hardest. That would seem to be the case for the likes of Jason Euell, who was declared bankrupt in January after being the victim of a property fraud. Meanwhile, Robbie Fowler has made millions in the same area. But perhaps it's not time to start a benevolent fund for Wayne Rooney just yet....

Read more: ind.pn/sportsbank

Forget 80mph... how 55mph is quicker

Coalition plans to increase the UK's motorway speed limit from 70 to 80mph, were met with glee by petrolheads. But, asked traffic expert Tom V in a post at Slate, would a 55mph limit actually make traffic flow more quickly? Vanderbilt describes trials in Colorado whereby – when traffic reaches a certain capacity – speed limits are lowered and kept at the same pace – F1 safety lap-style – by police patrol cars. Britain already has variable limits (monitored, unlike in the US, by cameras) in areas of high rush-hour traffic density – notably the M42 around Birmingham. That scheme was praised by the AA for its success. So, despite, what the Government thinks – perhaps the way forward is to go slower, not faster...

Read more: ind.pn/55not80

OK, the war's over, so what shall we do with this stuff?

Paleofuture is one of the Ideas Factory's favourite websites. It picks out futuristic plans from the distant past and how they've compared to what actually happened (we were promised jet packs, etc...). They recently dug out this wonderful ad from the Second World War-era architecture magazine Pencil Points (which later became Progressive Architecture). At the time of mass-production for the war effort, much advertising contained the promise of the good available after the war. This ad was aimed at architects, asking them to consider the air-con equipment built by Westinghouse for war use in new downtown department stores. Which is a more likely counterpoint to current US military supplier General Atomics asking Westfield shopping malls, "guys, have you considered drones?"

Read more: ind.pn/warcon

Send us your Ideas Factory fuel

The Ideas Factory is a weekly round-up of the best, weirdest and most interesting new discoveries, theories and experiments from around the world. If you're a scientist working on new research, a reader who's spotted something obscure, or an inventor who's knocked up the new Apple I in your garage, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me on w.dean@independent.co.uk or tweet me at @willydean

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