Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Eleventh Report


Traffic restraint and pedestrian priority zones

52. The bulk of the memoranda also emphasised the need for more traffic restraint and pedestrian priority measures. Pedestrianised zones, which exclude traffic for all or part of the day, are an obvious way of doing this. They can form part of dedicated walking networks, create the conditions which encourage people to linger and enjoy the social life of the street and, as we learnt on our visit to Milan and Munich, can reduce traffic levels in the whole city by cutting off cross city routes to motor vehicles, promoting travel by bus and tram.

53. Pedestrianisation can, however, have disadvantages unless carefully planned. There are serious concerns about personal security at night, especially where the pedestrian zone consists only of shops, and drunks and beggars occupy the empty space. The zones can look very scruffy with poorly-maintained paving and off-putting with rubbish, dog mess and the remains of chewing gum. These are not reasons for rejecting the concept, but it is essential that schemes address these problems. Effective law enforcement is essential, but security problems are mitigated if there is a large resident city centre population and if mixed activities are included in traffic free-areas. In Munich it is the city's policy to maintain or increase the present population in the centre of about 9,000. In Copenhagen and Dusseldorf parts of the pedestrian zones are primarily for leisure activities rather than shopping, thereby attracting people in the evenings as well as during the day.

54. The quality of any scheme has to be high. In particular, attention has to be paid to the paving, including its design, materials, craftsmanship and lighting. We were immensely impressed by the work in Milan, in particular the area from the Via Dante to the Cathedral Square, where a variety of stones were employed in the most skilful patterns. An attempt had been made to anticipate the problems caused by the utilities, which cause so much casual damage to streets.

55. A supplement or alternative to pedestrianisation is to restrict vehicle access without banning it outright. This strategy was employed in the centres of both Barcelona and Ferrara. In the former access was restricted by the use of bollards which could be automatically lowered by those with a pass. These could be acquired by residents in the restricted zone and a few others. In the latter a simple permit system applied. In addition the road system was organised so that there was only one through traffic route in the old city. Elsewhere city centres have been divided into cells which cars can enter, but cannot cross from one to another.

56. The authorities in Munich considered public transport an important feature of successful pedestrianisation. There a high proportion of those arriving at the centre do so by bus, tram, train or underground. 34% of trips within the city are by public transport. Traffic restraint in turn can lead to a switch to public transport. The emphasis, however, must be on high quality public transport; streets crowded with buses belching diesel fumes are not conducive to walking.

57. While conditions in pedestrian priority areas may be very attractive to the walker, areas immediately outside them may be very different. The RTPI stated:

    'Pedestrianised shopping centres have been a feature of our towns for many years, but their associated access routes rarely extend further than the adjoining car parks, bus or railway station'.[99]

Displaced traffic and parking often blight the surrounding streets which walkers may have to use or cross on their way into the pedestrianised centre. The Oxford Pedestrian Association suggests that achievements in Oxford are limited to the city centre and that nothing has yet been done to encourage walking into the city centre.[100] Roger Donnison stated that in Sheffield conditions had improved in the centre but had worsened elsewhere.[101] For those with a choice, driving to the multistorey car park attached to the pedestrianised area has become more attractive than walking there.

58. In many towns the building of an inner ring road to remove traffic was a precondition to the pedestrianisation of the city centre. The road itself, however, now acts as a barrier to pedestrians, and the pedestrianised area has become effectively an island of safety in a sea of danger. Frequently the only way to cross the inner ring road is by signalised crossings with cattle pen arrangements, bridges or subways It may be no coincidence that in several of the cities where walking is increasing, such as Oxford and Bath, an inner ring road was never built.

59. In some cities the problems caused by the inner ring road are beginning to be addressed. In Birmingham which had the most notorious of 1960s urban highways, the City Council as part of its regeneration of the city centre has breached the inner ring road and provided pedestrian access across it.[102] Here, as in Munich and Barcelona, radical measures have been taken, and major urban roads and even motorways have been sunk underground and covered, but there are many ways of allowing pedestrians to cross these roads which provide the space and time for them to do so safely.

60. Progress in implementing pedestrianised zones or restricting motor access in England has been slow compared to several continental countries. For instance, in London the partial pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square is still some years away.[103] The slow progress may reflect the nature of the more vociferous elements of the car lobby here (although not all - the RAC submitted evidence which supported civilising cities) and some retailers. A recent scheme which restricted access to the centre of Oxford was, according to Roger Williams, a senior Oxfordshire transport planner, opposed by "small business interests and the hardcore car-driving lobby".[104] It led to an extraordinary outburst by the BBC's Top Gear programme, but has been largely accepted by residents because they have been used to discussing these policies for many years and "realised that providing for unfettered car use was not a realistic possiblity". Walking and bus journeys have increased considerably since the new traffic scheme was introduced and car trips have decreased by 20%.

61. In contrast to the situation in England, the pedestrianisation of much of central Munich has, we were told, the support of local retailers and the local car manufacturer BMW. In Germany most towns with populations of more than 50,000 have a pedestrian zone and cities of over 100,000 have large zones. Most schemes were begun many years ago and were initially opposed by retailers, but their views soon changed as their turnover and profits increased. We heard similar support for pedestrianised zones from retailers' representatives in northern Italy.

Speed, accident and danger reduction

62. Outside pedestrian priority zones witnesses saw the need to deal with the amount and particularly the speed of motor traffic as a priority.[105] Quickly moving vehicles are not only a danger to pedestrians, but also act as a deterrent to walking. People are less likely to walk next to roads with fast-moving traffic, even if they are protected by guard railings. The British Medical Association informed us:

    "The key factors in encouraging walking, and indeed cycling, are an overall reduction in motorised transport and a reduction in the speed of remaining vehicles in urban areas".[106]

63. At present it is usual to protect pedestrians from motor traffic by accident or crash reduction measures, using costly guard railings and cattle pen crossings, which are designed to maintain traffic flows and which effectively trade pedestrian safety for pedestrian convenience.[107] Widening a road to a dual carriageway and installing guard railings and increasing the speed limit from 30mph to 40mph, may result in fewer crashes involving pedestrians but this outcome would be because people had been forced off the road, not because the road had become less dangerous for them. Traffic engineering schemes are thus aimed at reducing accidents not reducing danger. They usually mean that pedestrians are treated as second class citizens having to defer to motorists at light controlled crossings, or having to ascend to bridges or descend to subways, usually adding distance, exertion, discomfort and unpleasantness.

64. An alternative to a policy of accident prevention is one of danger reduction.[108] This involves traffic calming of various means, including enforcing lower speed limits which reduce the danger to pedestrians. Many towns and cities in Germany have a general speed limit of 30kmph (roughly 20mph) in all residential areas. Main roads are generally 50kmph (30mph), though in some shopping streets, a lower limit is applied. The Pedestrians Association proposed that 20mph become the normal urban speed limit in built up areas. It was argued that the road safety case for 20mph zones was strong with 60% fewer accidents in such areas than in similar areas with a 30mph speed limit.[109]

65. Danger reduction, using speed management, would also allow miles of guard railings and many staggered, cattle pen crossings to be scrapped. These grotesque items both inconvenience pedestrians and disfigure our cities.[110] Our own experience of the staggered pelican crossings outside the Palace of Westminster suggests that they are ignored by many pedestrians who are unwilling to accept the delay they cause. We asked the council why they had been introduced and were informed that under the DETR guidance at the time of their installation they had been required for any crossing over 12 metres in width. Remarkably while agreeing that pedestrians ignore the crossings, the council seemed to imply that legislation should be introduced to prevent them from doing so.[111]

66. It is clear that local authorities, rather than implementing schemes which would modify drivers' behaviour, are replacing zebra crossings, which have a simple pedestrian refuge, with expensive staggered crossings. This is often the result of unimaginative and slavish adherence to inappropriate DETR guidance without adequate assessment of whether new crossings are necessary. Current guidance issued in 1995 is contained in Local Transport Notes 1/95 and 2/95. The DETR considers that straight crossings with a refuge can create problems and therefore has no immediate plans to revise the guidance to discourage staggered crossings, although the notes will be supplemented to take account of the development of "Puffin" (Pedestrian User Friendly, Intelligent) light- controlled crossings.[112]

67. It is surprising that no change is planned since under the influence of these Local Transport Notes there has been an unnecessary proliferation of new crossings. As the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Urban Design Alliance argued there are many powerful reasons for updating these notes.[113] They contradict more recent guidance in other DETR publications on urban design and walking since staggered crossings are ugly and inconvenient to pedestrians.[114] They are also expensive, costing over £25,000, thereby reducing the funds available for measures which would facilitate walking.[115] It is remarkable that they should be considered essential here when on our visit to Barcelona, Milan, Ferrara and Munich we scarcely saw a single piece of guard railing or a staggered, cattle pen crossing.

68. There seems to be no available statistical evidence about crashes to support the general use of these railings or crossings. In some instances they increase the likelihood of injury. The evidence which we received indicated that danger reduction is probably a more effective way of reducing pedestrian casualties. The BMA commented:

    "Concerns have been raised that encouraging walking and cycling will lead to an increase in casualties and facilities. However, this is not the case. In York, the policy of prioritising health-promoting modes of transport, whilst restraining motor traffic, has led to casualty reductions well above the national average, eg for pedestrian casualties in 1990-94 York saw a reduction of 36% compared with a 15% reduction for the UK as a whole".[116]

69. Some witnesses argued that zebra crossings marked by belisha beacons should be the preferred option.[117] If accidents were a concern in a particular location they should be addressed by moderating traffic volumes and speed so that the crossings work effectively and safely, not by restricting pedestrians. In any case zebra crossings should not be replaced unless there had been a thorough investigation, case by case, taking into account local opinion to see whether the proposal was justified. Consideration might also be given to updating the design of the zebras. Where zebras had to be replaced, puffins, not staggered pelican crossings, should be employed.[118]

70. A philosophy of danger reduction should replace the prevailing orthodoxy of accident reduction. It can be more effective in reducing pedestrian casualties, leads to better urban design and is more convenient for pedestrians. As part of this shift, guard railings and staggered crossings, which are barely used on the Continent, should be scrapped where traffic speeds can be reduced. Local Transport Notes 1/95 and 2/95 should be withdrawn and replaced. Existing zebra crossings, marked by belisha beacons, are very satisfactory for pedestrians as long as they are respected by motorists and enforced. They should be retained except where a thorough investigation shows they should be replaced. In such cases puffin crossings should be employed.

Management of public space and personal security

71. An unpleasant, poorly maintained environment and concern about personal security are major deterrents to walking. This requires all responsible for their management to undertake their job more effectively.

72. Several witnesses emphasised the need for a greater police presence if walking were to be encouraged. Two-thirds of parents surveyed in the London Borough of Ealing, for example, say that more police 'on the beat' would make them more likely to allow their children to walk unescorted in their neighbourhood.[119] Reducing the fear of crime is a Public Service Agreement objective for the Home Office, but there was concern that neither the Government nor the police had adequately addressed the scale of the problem. The Pedestrians Association expressed concern that the Government had failed to give sufficient attention to the importance of policing to both walking and the urban renaissance. It observed that there was little mention of policing in the Urban White Paper in spite of the crucial role played by the police in enforcing the laws that underpin the individual's willingness to spend time in public places. It recommended that the Government clarify the role of the police in maintaining and managing the public realm.[120]

73. More police officers on the beat can be supplemented by a variety of other measures. People walking on streets, footpaths and in public spaces feel more secure where there is good lighting and where they are not confronted by subways, blind corners and overgrown vegetation (where attackers could hide).[121] The design of developments can also play a major role in both the amount of crime and feelings of security. The evidence we received argued that security is best achieved by high density layouts which ensure that there are large numbers of people on streets which are well overlooked. Guidance on the design of developments is provided by the police through the Secure by Design initiative. In the past this guidance encouraged the use of culs-de-sac in new developments and the closure of footpaths to prevent the easy movement on foot of criminals around estates.[122] Such measures also prevented residents from easily walking around their estate and may add to insecurity. We recommend that the police ensure that the Secure by Design initiative promotes personal security by higher density developments which encourage walking in streets and public spaces which are well overlooked. Getting more people walking is a major aid to security.

Conditions for the disabled and the elderly

74. Conditions are bad for everyone, but they are particularly awful for the disabled and the elderly.[123] An array of problems confront them, not just as a result of poor design and heavy, intrusive traffic. They suffer more than anyone from the failure of basic public management and maintenance and law enforcement. These are very important matters which require more detailed study than we have had the time to devote to them. We can only here identify a few key points.

75. First, uneven pavements are a particular difficulty. An accident caused by poor paving, can severely undermine the partially sighted, deaf-blind and elderly so that they fear to go out.[124] Secondly, parking on the pavement is a serious and growing problem, especially outside London (in the capital it is illegal, elsewhere it is not). It blocks the way of parents pushing buggies and of elderly and disabled people in wheel chairs and electric carts.[125] The pavement surface is soiled by oil stains and broken by the weight of vehicles, leading to an uglier walking environment and an increased risk of trips and falls. Moreover, tolerance of it symbolises the widespread assumption that the car driver is king and encourages a contempt for pedestrians. It indicates that all public space, pavements as well as roads, belongs to the motorist. Finally, too little thought is given to the special needs of the elderly and disabled. As James Cruickshank pointed out, the provision of benches to rest on can make the all the difference to an elderly person out and about on foot. With them they will leave the home regularly, take exercise and retain their independence; without them they can lose all that and become prisoners in their own homes.[126]

76. We recommend that priority be given to walking through:

    Planning policies which promote high density, mixed use, compact towns and cities which keep distances short;

    Transport Strategies which give priority to and promote walking, including the re-classification of the urban route network to take account of all its functions; and.
  • promote convenient alternatives to car travel such as home delivery

Better conditions for pedestrians by:

  • ensuring that walking routes are continuous, well-connected to key destinations and well-signed, and that where such routes meet major roads in urban areas, pedestrians have priority; particular emphasis should be given to creating good routes to important facilities, including schools and rail and bus stations and bus stops;

  • traffic restraint, including establishing more high quality pedestrian priority zones in city and local centres, which are well connected to outlying areas by high quality pedestrian routes and by public transport;

  • dealing with safety issues by reducing the impact of motor traffic and moderating traffic speed;

  • improvements to the management and maintenance of public space and personal security; in particular a greater police presence on the streets; and

  • extending the ban on pavement parking to towns and cities outside London and ensuring that it is enforced; and

  • paying particular attention to the needs of the elderly and disabled.

99  WTC69 Back

100  WTC58 Back

101  WTC01; Mr Donnison, a resident of Sheffield, is a transport planning consultant Back

102  WTC16 Back

103  Contracts are now expected to be completed during May 2003 (Q411) Back

104  WTC84 Back

105  The problems associated with speed are discussed in many memoranda; eg. WTC25 Back

106  WTC14 Back

107  WTC29 notes that transport professionals "have boxed 'walkers' as 'vulnerable road users'" Back

108  WTC49 Back

109  WTC30; and see WTC25 (Slower Speeds Initiative) and WTC36; PACTS (WTC7) stated "Research by TRL found that with 20 mph zones the average annual accident frequency fell by 60%...Child pedestrian accidents fell by 70%" Back

110  For a discussion of this subject, see QQ584-94 Back

111  WTC106 Back

112  WTC40B Back

113  Q603 Back

114  Q602 Back

115  WTC84A Back

116  WTC14 Back

117  Eg. see WTC02 Back

118  The following types of pedestrian crossing are in use. The traditional crossings are zebras, which are marked by belisha beacons. Subsequently, ordinary pelicans which are light controlled and triggered by request were introduced; these pelicans can also be staggered with pedestrians held in a cattle pen. There are also pedestrian phases at signal controlled crossings. The most recent light controlled crossings are called PUFFINS, an acronym for "Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent" light-controlled crossings. The DETR provided a supplementary note on staggered crossings (WTC 40B) Back

119  WTC 67 Back

120  WTC 30 Back

121  WTC 15 Back

122  Secure by Design is discussed in the Eleventh Report of Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, 1999-2000, The Proposed Urban White Paper (HC 185-I), para 68 Back

123  Eg. see WTC41, WTC42, WTC46, WTC48, WTC100 Back

124  According to the National Road Maintenance and Condition Survey 1999, the proportion of footways subject to general deterioration increased to 22.3 per cent continuing the upward trend evident since the mid-1990s...The other measure of footway deterioration used by the survey is the number of spot conditions or 'trips' (hazards which might lead to tripping) representing a specific danger to pedestrians. The number of footway 'trips' per 100 metres fell steadily between 1987 and 1996, but has followed a rising trend since then. In 1999, the incidence of 'trips' rose to 1.6 per 100 metres Back

125  On the subject of pavement parking, see WTC03 Back

126  WTC46 Back

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