A New Tube Map

Potential cycle network for Eastbourne

Robert McGowan explains his idea for a cycle network in Eastbourne based on the design of the famous London Underground map.

In the run-up to Eastbourne’s first Sustainable Transport & Active Travel Summit, held at the town’s conference centre last November, I decided to make and display some maps and infographics about cycling in this corner of Sussex. Here’s why.

We at Bespoke had spent more than 15 years campaigning for a safe, traffic-free route along Eastbourne seafront – as seen in practically every other British seaside town. So far, it had been to no avail. Our endless requests for a safe, healthy, quiet, clean and green route along what should be Eastbourne’s jewel-in-the-crown had always landed on stony ground – scattered across the pebble beach of East Sussex County Council’s transport department.

And here we are in 2024; what now? On reflection, perhaps we could make one argument more effectively: that of connectivity. A safe cycle route along the seafront isn’t just a pleasant excursion on wheels for anyone aged five to 85, although it would be that: it’s very much about getting from one side of town to the other, for locals and visitors.

If, for example, you live in the centre of Eastbourne – or Meads or Old Town – and you want to visit a friend in the Redoubt area, or go swimming at the Sovereign Centre, without using a car, the most obvious way to get there would be along the seafront. Navigation is simple – and it’s wonderfully scenic.

A simple map or infographic might help to make this point about connectivity between various residential areas and the town centre. I thought the template could be the famous London Underground map, designed by Harry Beck in 1931 and replicated in various forms for trains, buses and other modes of transport in cities around the world.

Inner tube

During the first Covid-19 lockdown, local authorities around the country drew up plans for “pop up” cycleways to enable people to maintain “social distance” as they travelled locally.

East Sussex was no exception, and it got us wondering which routes they would choose.

Naturally, we thought of the seafront route, plus a safe link between the railway station and the hospital, a route from the station to Old Town and a traffic-free section through the town centre, connecting them all.

Thinking it would strengthen the idea, I worked on an infographic with Sarah Macbeth, a brilliant designer and my collaborator on various maps for Riffle & Pool Press. We included various landmarks and public facilities such as schools, swimming pools and bike shops. After much discussion about colour swatches, trip-time “zones”, fonts and the position of “stops” we came up with:

Outer tube

Three years later, as the Sustainable Transport & Active Travel Summit loomed, I thought it would be worthwhile expanding our infographic to encompass the whole of Eastbourne and Willingdon – and out to Polegate and Pevensey. Sarah and I developed the original design to include existing routes such as the Horsey Way and the Cuckoo Trail.  A safe route from Eastbourne town centre to Sovereign Harbour could be extended to Pevensey Bay, Bexhill and Hastings as part of an enhanced Coastal Culture Trail that would boost ecotourism.