A city’s street names can give us a glimpse into its cultural value system. Ever since streets have been named, they have been used as a form of social engineering, and various studies have been done about ‘streetonomics’.
A Washington journal has conducted a study on 4,932 honorific streets (i.e. named for a person), looking at gender bias, professions etc. Vienna had the highest proportion of streets named for women, at 54%, with London a close second. Paris scored abysmally in this area, with only 4%.
I personally think that naming streets after authors or even after their characters is a wonderful idea, and something to be encouraged. In London you can find a Macbeth Street, Prospero Road, Portia Way, Crusoe Mews, Poppins Court, Copperfield Street, Sherlock Mews and Baskerville Gardens, and Batman Close, as some of the streets honouring fictional creations, but it also has plenty commemorating actual authors – Shakespeare Road, Dickens Street. San Francisco has Jack Kerouac Alley, Dashiell Hammett Street; Paris has Quai Anatole France, Boulevard Voltaire, Avenue Victor Hugo, and Rue Balzac.
So how does Australia compare? Well, there’s a Fullerton Street in Sydney, but sadly it was NOT named after me. Canberra has chosen literary names for most of the 51 streets in the suburb of Garran – Astley Place, Praed Place, Gilmore Crescent, Harpur Street, Wright Place and Richardson Street are some of them. In Melbourne’s St Kilda / Elwood area there are streets named for English poets – Tennyson, Chaucer, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, Southey and Shakespeare amongst them.
Street names are a part of our wider literary culture. The more we remember writers, celebrate their legacy in our physical environment, and make the next generation aware of their names and books, the better! Do you agree? Let me know leaving a comment.