The man who cycled London

I have studied maps for most of my life, as a boy scout to undertaking the Knowledge.

So when I discovered Davis Vilums and his passion (or should that be an obsession?), I couldn’t wait to feature it here.

Latvian born Davis grew bored with cycling the same route to work each day and decided to discover alternative streets. Using the cabbies’ bible, the Geographers’ A-Z Super Scale Map, he set out to travel down every street listed.

Overall it took him four years to visit every single road on the map, a not dissimilar time it takes to complete the Knowledge. Starting from his home in Walworth cycling to work in Fitzrovia, a journey that would take between 30 to 40 minutes. Later he expanded his journey to two hours getting to the office whilst reaching the furthest places on the A-Z, and remarkably never being late for work.

When Phyllis Pearsall decided to navigate the labyrinthine London streets, she claimed to have set off early each morning to walk – and catalogue – the streets of the city. She was said to have worked 18 hours a day walking around the 3,000 miles of London’s 23,000 streets to produce the A-Z Street Atlas of London (pronounced A-Zed), completed the task, she claimed, in one year.

Davis planned to visit not only the main roads but every single accessible mews, yard, cul-de-sac and park trail it was possible to go through, taking a more realistic time to complete the task. Unlike Phyllis Pearsall, he used the Endomondo app to make a proper record of the journeys proving that he had actually been there.

I believe that ‘walking the streets’ (or cycling in Davis’ project) has come to be a metaphor, as you go through the atlas you are walking the streets, and discovering London. In fact, Davis found some paths through buildings that weren’t visible on the map, Shoreditch, Bermondsey and one I know Temple, which runs below the Savoy.

Davis’ record of his achievement can be found at Cycling through all the Streets in Central London.

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