Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Harry Baxter Esq (WTC 04)


  I am greatly encouraged by the fact that the ETRAC are considering the issue of "Walking in Towns & Cities" and by the Reports by the DETR regarding Transport and Walking Strategies during the year 2000.

  For a Government to consider discouraging private car use and encourage walking is a very bold step and one to be commended, though I fear not a strategy that is readily going to be accepted by the majority of motorists, for this reason I believe the Government DETR has got to take a very broad perspective to "Walking in Towns & Cities" An Holistic Approach, emphasising the benefits to Mental & Physical health and well-being, a greater awareness and rapport will ensure a greater awareness and concern for our environment.

  Also I believe Government has got to communicate to the public the absolute necessity to curtail car use as the dominant mode of transport over Walking and Public Transport, not just for Regional and National benefit but for Global benefits. Communicating and winning this argument is essential if any Walking Strategy is to succeed.

  For the above reasons I do not believe the ETR Affairs Committee should consider the subject of walking separately from many other issues such as law enforcement which has developed over the last 50 years to treat the main form of Transport as the car, as a consequence, the "Bobby on the Beat" has been replaced by the Bobby in the car, we cannot aim to encourage Walking without considering many issues analogous to the above example.

  For many years pedestrian issues have been neglected, footpaths closed or been allowed to become so neglected they have become neglected and unusable.

  Local Government resources have been directed to highway issues and catering to the needs of the motorist at the expense of pedestrian issues, to suddenly change direction in favour of the pedestrian, appears an awesome, if not impossible task for Local Authorities, Highway Departments and Engineers, not accustomed to considering Pedestrian Issues.

  New appointments of "Walking Officers" by Local Authorities would be paramount to the success of any National Walking initiative.

  The motorist is a strong lobby and any attempt to discourage them will be very unpopular, especially at the ballot box if the issue is allowed to become Party Political. For this reason I would humbly presume to suggest to Government that the importance of the issue of discouraging car use and encouraging walking, even if it be for only short journeys, should be strongly communicated to the public and the consequences of a failure to implement such a strategy could/would be catastrophic to the National and Global Environment.

  As a pedestrian who has never learnt to drive a car and in my late 50s, I would also like to express to the ETR Affairs Committee the pleasure and benefits of walking.

  A pedestrian is automatically closer to his environment and consequently more aware of it and hopefully more concerned for it. Generations are growing up detached from their environment, hardly capable of walking or walking far, so used are they to literally travelling everywhere by car, walking is looked upon as a drag, a bind to be avoided, so that even the shortest journey is undertaken by car.

  Even in the urban environment, Definite Rights of Way Footpaths exist, during the last 30 years these valuable assets have been neglected, even closed, any walking strategy must take into account that it would be compensating for years of neglect. I believe we should be showing people that walking can be pleasurable, educational and healthy.

  So many people attend health clubs arriving and departing in their cars, whereas walking to and from the Health Club would have as much if not more health benefits than all the activity within a health club, with the knowledge that walking is a natural exercise and cheaper.

  I wish the Committee every success in its endeavours in their enquiry into Walking in Towns and Cities and that a determined and practical national strategy is produced to encourage walking and as far as is practicable to discourage car use.

December 2000

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