Measuring, whether scientific or serendipitous, is an act of ascribing value. What values, then, are commonly assigned to the city street and do we have the tools to recognise its ‘ordinary’ uses? How, for example, are a street’s requirements for efficiency and flow reconciled with its equally necessary inefficiencies of meandering and meeting? Does economic turnover count more to retail longevity than social exchange? Is mixed-use an (in)effectual proxy for mixed users? To tackle these questions I rely on contrast, and compare the life and livelihoods on the Walworth Road in its disparate, multi-ethnic and innovative setting, with notions of the ‘village high street’ that abound in much of the literature and policy around high streets in the UK. Indeed it is the underlying reference to the ‘traditional high street’ that encapsulates dominant cultural notations of high street vitality and viability (see for example High Street London (Gort Scott and UCL 2010) and High Street Britain: 2015 (All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group 2006)).