Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
MR R BENDIXSON,
MR A PURKIS
40. What criteria would you lay down for effective
(Mr Plowden) First of all trying to get the best information
which can be got about existing walking activity of which the
main source at the moment is only the 1991 census of walking to
work. There is a desperate shortage of local data on walking which
needs to be improved. We also need to think about the obvious
places people are likely to be walking to and from: from housing
estates to schools, to shops, to sports centres, to townhalls.
Then ensure that the links between those places are as direct
and safe and attractive and convenient as possible. Unless you
look at a whole town or a whole neighbourhood, all you will do
is tinker with a crossing here and a subway there rather than
thinking about the likely movements of pedestrians around a town
or village or city.
(Mr Purkis) As an association we have actually produced
a guide for local authorities to have of how they might set about
this. If you would like we could submit that to the Clerk afterwards.
41. Yes, we should like that please.
(Mr Purkis) There are also some examples of good practice
already in particular places. We could also make details available
of those if that would be helpful.
42. You have referred to the need for better
skills and training of staff. What would you do to improve that?
(Mr Plowden) First of all we need to create a career
path for people who want to know about these issues. Very few
people in local government have ever made a career of promoting
walking. In a sense we need to create a career path which would
make that one of the things you learn how to do. You need to give
transport planners and highway engineers either extra skills around
things like urban design and architecture and issues which affect
the wider environment, or ensure that you have teams of people
working together in local authorities who can draw on those different
skills. It is really a question both of encouraging people to
take up what skills there are by putting money and priority into
walking and making that an attractive career option and ensuring
you have the full range of skills, both design and planning skills,
in your professional staff to make sure you get the best outcome
in terms of pedestrian conditions.
43. Do you see a role for the new centres for
neighbourhood renewal and new centres for urban design in that?
(Mr Plowden) Definitely. John Rouse from CABE was
at the meeting we had earlier in the week and it became clear
that we and they ought to be talking much more directly about
the urban design aspects of the walking environment and vice-versa.
(Mr Bendixson) There should be in-career training
as well as ab initio training at the colleges and schools
involved in traffic engineering and civil engineering.
44. I want to ask you a question that I want
to ask you and it is this. I do not meet a parent these days who
feels it is safe for their child to walk to school, whether it
is in London or whether it is in my constituency. How do you get
to persuade those people? How do you explain to people who live
in Peckham, for goodness sake, where apparently there is not a
policeman to be seen for days on end? Some of the things you have
said seem to me completely unrealistic. I want you to tell me
how you manage to come to the conclusion that you can somehow
make more people walk when the people I talk to clearly feel that
walking is not safe.
(Mr Plowden) Absolutely. Could not agree with that
more. That is why you need not just to look at the physical infrastructure
like crossings and subways and lighting, but all the things which
influence people's willingness to walk. The reason why we do not
think we are being starry-eyed idealists is that other cities
in Britain and other countries have successfully created conditions
in the round which encourage people to go on walking. The two
things which deter parents from letting their children walk to
school in terms of perceived dangers are stranger dangerand
after Damilolo Taylor I am sure that will have increasedsecondly,
the danger from traffic. You need to deal with both of those issues,
not just for children but for adults as well, so that you reduce
the danger from traffic in terms of speed, volume, crossings and
so on and make sure that people feel safe in terms of personal
assault, whether that is by more uniformed policemen, better street
lighting, more people on the street as well. If you just do the
physical infrastructure you will only address half the problem.
We certainly agree with that.
45. There has never been a policeman on every
street corner. You are falling into the trap of saying our streets
are unsafe when you know they are not, relatively.
(Mr Plowden) The evidence from the States is that
it is not about there being a policeman on every street corner.
It is about the regular appearance, periodically, of uniformed
policemen who are seen to be part of the process of maintaining
public order in that community. In America the evidence is that
if policemen underwrite the basic level of public order and security,
communities then feel more confident about upholding the law between
foot patrols and policemen. That has certainly been the experience
in New York where they have put more uniformed people in the street,
not on every street corner but regular patrols, and crime has
gone down dramatically.
(Mr Purkis) We are the organisers nationally of the
Walk to School campaign each year: a combination of parents getting
together and concerting their forces, walking buses where appropriate,
organised consultation with schools and with local authorities
on particular problems and blockages and safety matters.
46. What is a walking bus, a crocodile?
(Mr Purkis) Yes. These do and can make a difference.
It is not that we are all up against such terrible problems that
we cannot do anything. The walk to school campaign has made improvements
which do encourage more people to walk to school. There is a lot
of good things on which to build there.
47. The major problem, you acknowledge though,
is it not, is that it is parents who travel to school, short journeys
and the congestion they cause which is a serious deterrent?
(Mr Bendixson) Having said that, which is perfectly
correct, a very large number of parentsI am afraid I do
not have the figures at my fingertipsstill do either walk
with their children to school or large numbers of children do
still walk alone to school. The glass is half full as well as
being half empty.
48. I am supposed to solicit your views on the
justification for reducing the speed limit to 20 miles per hour
for example from the current 30 miles per hour. How do you think
that would affect people's willingness to walk.
(Mr Plowden) The faster a car is going when it hits
somebody, the more likely they are to be killed or seriously injured.
49. We all know that.
(Mr Plowden) The question is: what do you expect the
norm to be in built-up areas where you know that there will be
people, adults, children, young, old, etcetera, walking around
the streets? It is our view that the Government giving local authorities
the power to introduce 20mph zones without consulting the Secretary
of State has been a major step forward and we strongly support
it. We should like to leave on the table the proposition that
if that does not help reduce casualties by as many as the Government's
target, the question of looking at a 20mph basic speed limit for
cities and towns should be introduced. You would obviously allow
some exemptions for roads which were primarily for fast moving
traffic, like roads coming into and out of city centres, but you
would start with the assumption that 20 was a reasonable base
speed for traffic in town centres. Whatever the speed limit is,
you have to put enough money into traffic calming to keep the
speed limits observed and into the policing of speed and traffic
more generally. At the moment traffic policing is not a high priority
for most police forces and that is partly why speeds tend to be
50. Do you believe that transport operators
and local authorities are now doing enough to make stations, whether
it be rail or bus, accessible to pedestrians?
(Mr Plowden) They are starting. Things like quality
partnerships in relation to buses are certainly looking at those
issues. Railtrack have understood the importance of not just the
immediate environment of stations but the wider catchment. I still
think that the potential for increasing public transport use by
making the walking connections better has been underestimated.
It is very expensive to increase railway capacity, certainly compared
with increasing the safety and convenience of the journeys at
either end. So if your journey takes an hour, you might be able
to reduce it faster by improving the walk links than by putting
one more train on or whatever which would cost a lot more money.
Yes, they are starting but there is a long way to go.
51. Is there a single measure you feel would
be helpful to achieve greater accessibility?
(Mr Bendixson) If operators had a better understanding
of just how many people did, for instance, walk to railway stations.
They tend to know how many people park and they tend to provide
parking. Because people on foot do not leave their shoes outside
the railway station when they get on the train, nobody really
knows how many people walk. The evidence is that very large numbers
52. What evidence is there seriously that Railtrack
even worry too much about the people who drive to the stations?
Forgive me. I do not mean this unkindly, but they have moved most
of their taxi ranks away from the front forecourts of their stations.
They have made it more difficult for buses to go into them. They
have shown no interest whatsoever in the ease of their passengers.
Try walking through Paddington now. There are some very nice stores
to go into, but it is not an easy place to walk through. The only
people I can see Railtrack care about are Railtrack. If you have
evidence to the contrary, please tell me.
(Mr Bendixson) All we have evidence for is the large
number of people who do walk. There is some very good data from
Kent County Council showing what high proportions of people walk
to their commuter stations.
53. Forgive me, but your colleague implied that
Railtrack were now awareI cannot remember the exact words.
If they are aware that is something, but what makes you think
(Mr Plowden) Talking to people in the railway industry,
they are starting to understand that the journeys do not just
start at the station.
54. Do you mean they are just beginning to realise
they have people as passengers?
(Mr Plowden) Yes; they have obviously made a breakthrough.
Mrs Dunwoody: I suppose every advance is worth
55. Can you very briefly tell me? Any views
on Home Zones?
(Mr Plowden) Strongly support them. We were involved
with the Home Zone Steering Group which set up the pilot monitoring
scheme in the DETR. We should like to see many more coming through
local transport plans and we should certainly like to see the
Government ensuring that the legal liability for where a driver
hits a pedestrian in a Home Zone or a cyclist is changed as it
is on the continent, so that liability lies in the first instance
with the driver.
Mrs Dunwoody: Also where cyclists drive everybody
else mad, they should be forced to have insurance.
Chairman: On that note, may I thank you very
much for your evidence.
2 Taking the Strategy Step, published March
2000 to help local authorities plan the local walking strategies
required by the Local Transport Plan guidance. Back