Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Institution of Highways & Transportation (WTC 05)



  1.  The Institution of Highways & Transportation (IHT) welcomes the Committee's inquiry into this important subject and is grateful for the opportunity to submit evidence.

  2.  The IHT represents over 10,000 professionals working in highways and transportation. It develops and advances professional excellence as one of the leading learned societies on urban and regional transport and infrastructure issues. The IHT has been particularly active in promoting and sharing good practice concerned with walking. In particular, the Committee is urged to pay special attention to "Guidelines for Providing for Journeys on Foot" (IHT, 2000). A complimentary copy is enclosed with the hard copy of this contribution. Local authorities, consultants and developers have bought copies.

  3.  The IHT is presently preparing a publication "People-Friendly Town Centres: Guidelines for Planning, Design and Management", dealing with the creation and enhancement of safe and attractive town centres for pedestrians. Due for publication in spring 2001, it will replace the IHT's 1989 Guidelines on "Pedestrianisation". An interim summary could be made available to the Committee if required.


  4.  This contribution follows the format set out in the bullet points used in the Press Notice.


  5.  The economic and social well-being of our local centres, towns and cities depends upon the people who use them for shopping, leisure, living and employment. For the businesses and attractions situated in urban areas, access is about who is attracted in what numbers. It is largely a quantitative thing—numbers of visitors with money to spend and "pedestrian footfall".

  6.  However, from the point of view of shoppers, visitors, residents and workers, access is about the qualities of the journey to reach town centres and local centres (from residential areas, car parks and public transport facilities) and the quality of the environment they find once there.

  7.  Quantity and quality are linked. The better the quality of access, the greater the quantity of access that is encouraged. But, conversely, the greater the quantity of access, particularly by motorised modes, the greater is the threat to quality. Practical and positive measures to assist pedestrians can be seen as achieving a sustainable balance between quality and quantity. They provide for the most inclusive and least environmentally damaging form of access—walking—where human activity is often at its most concentrated in our urban centres, and where concerns about the adverse impacts of road traffic, congestion, and pedestrian-vehicle conflict are often greatest.

  8.  Promoting and enhancing the pedestrian environment has a major role in securing much needed urban regeneration and renaissance. The primary aim of urban renaissance must be to create people-friendly urban areas and improve their quality, environment, amenity, viability and vitality. The creation of safe and attractive pedestrian environments in our towns and cities is a necessary condition for success and is central to improving the viability, vitality and amenity of our urban areas for shoppers, visitors, workers and residents alike. This includes encouraging walking to local centres, community facilities, schools, employment areas and the like. There is an important health dimension too. Medical evidence indicates that regular walking contributes to reduced heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon cancer, obesity and depression. Walking is about more than just transport—it can make an important contribution to healthy living and general physical fitness.


The Importance of Walking

  9.  Firstly, some statistics. Walking accounts for a quarter of all journeys and four fifths of journeys less than one mile. Around half of all education journeys, one third of all shopping journeys, a quarter of social/entertainment journeys and one eighth of all commuter journeys are made on foot. Walking is the main form of access to public transport services. The average person walks just under 200 miles per year on public roads (IHT 2000, page 11). We are all pedestrians at some time, whether or not we own or use a car, thus encouraging walking is good for social inclusion. Furthermore, pedestrians are not just people travelling by foot. They are employers, employees, shoppers, customers and visitors, all of whom contribute to the vitality of an urban area.

The Decline in Walking

  10.  Despite the importance of walking, the amount of walking has declined. In the 20 years prior to 1995-97, the number of walk journeys fell by 10 per cent whilst the average distance walked fell by 24 per cent. This trend has been steepest over the last 10 years and has occurred despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that the average person's total travel mileage has increased by 38 per cent over this same period (IHT, 2000, page 13). The decline has been most notable amongst children; this must be of particular concern given the links between physical activity and the acknowledged decreasing fitness levels amongst children.

Obstacles to Walking

  11.  There are many real or perceived deterrents to walking. Amongst the most important are:

    —  Land use patterns that are unsuited to walking.

    —  Unpleasant pedestrian environments.

    —  Poor design of access to developments.

    —  Access to a car, and perceived cost of its use.

    —  Danger to vehicular traffic.

    —  Personal security fears.

    —  Inconvenient pedestrian facilities.

  12.  These issues are examined further in IHT 2000, page 42.


  13.  There are a number of factors that influence the amount of walking. Pedestrian Review is an approach that can help to examine existing conditions in a systematic way. Pedestrian Audit can help with the examination of planned arrangements (ie associated with new development or infrastructure). It is important that these approaches are adopted and applied comprehensively and systematically by local highway authorities to improve the pedestrian environment (further details are provided in IHT, 2000 pages 55ff and 71ff).

  14.  "Encouraging walking: advice to local authorities" (DETR, 2000a) recommends using the "Five Cs" as a checklist to assess the overall quality of the existing environment for walking: Is the walking environment—

    —  Connected?

    —  Comfortable?

    —  Convenient?

    —  Convivial?

    —  Conspicuous?

  15.  Other important factors affecting the quality of pedestrian routes include IHT, 2000, page 54):

    —  Directness.

    —  Comprehensiveness.

    —  Width.

    —  Obstructions/misuse.

    —  Surfaces/maintenance.

    —  Crossings.

    —  Personal security/safety.

    —  Pleasantness.

    —  Signing.

    —  Suitability.

Necessary conditions for success

  16.  People-friendly town centres can only be achieved through good design, imaginative management, persuasive promotion, efficient maintenance and by understanding the sometimes-conflicting needs of everyone likely to be affected.

  17.  City squares, pedestrianisation (and pedestrian priority), Home Zones, measures to restrain traffic, speed management, harmonisation of walking and public transport and improved safety and security all have important roles to play in a local walking strategy. The precise approach to be adopted in particular situations will depend on local circumstances and needs—this can be determined through Pedestrian Review and Pedestrian Audit techniques. However, humanising our urban centres must be at the heart of any intervention.

  18.  Encouraging walking contributes to wider transport, environmental and health objectives through mechanisms that include:

    —  Health improvement plans.

    —  Traffic reduction strategies.

    —  Air quality management plans.

    —  Safer routes to schools.

    —  Local Agenda 21.

    —  Community strategies.


  19.  "Reinventing the wheel" is not a worthwhile occupation. Progress comes from knowledge and experience. Developing, promoting and sharing good practice—from the UK and elsewhere—is central to implementing successful measures on the ground. The technical meetings of the IHT's local branch network are one means of exchanging good practice.

  20.  The IHT is at the forefront of promoting good practice and in developing practical guidelines for practitioners. The DETR—and others—often sponsor the IHT's work in this area. The Committee should recognise the value of this work and urge the DETR, and other relevant Government agencies, to continue to support the production of independent and practical advice on good practice.

  21.  More attention should be given to monitoring the impacts of new initiatives. The DETR needs to be firmer in requiring local authorities to record outputs and outcomes so that good practice can be benchmarked and exchanged more effectively. This is central to the best value approach, but there is scope for improved performance.


  22.  The IHT is concerned about the constraints on implementing the Ten-Year Transport Plan presented by a shortage of skilled practitioners. This is particularly true in terms of providing for vulnerable groups, notably walking and cycling. But the skills issue does not end there. There is also a need to improve pedestrian (particularly children) and driver skills and training in the general population.

  23.  The IHT, in partnership with others, has developed a framework for vocational qualifications in the transport field. These measure and reward the competence and understanding of staff in the work place. The planning, design, implementation and maintenance of measures to encourage walking are embraced within the occupational standards that underpin these vocational qualifications (N/SVQs) at levels 3 and 4. The DETR and Highways Agency should be more proactive in supporting qualifications (particularly when used in conjunction with academic courses) and favour clients/contractors who use staff that can demonstrate their practical competence.

  24.  The IHT concurs with the recommendations of the DETR's Joint Cycling/Walking Professional Training and Information Group, namely:

    —  ensuring that transport professionals have a proper understanding of the needs of pedestrians;

    —  that the transportation N/SVQs could provide the basis for improving training in this field;

    —  too little emphasis is given to walking issues by local authorities; and

    —  that professionals require better understanding of the most appropriate technical guidance.


  25.  Many groups, including IHT, were disappointed that the Government issued "advice to local authorities" rather than a National Walking Strategy. Encouraging walking—and making it safer and more convenient—is unquestionably a good thing. It is good for people, good for communities (so long as exposure to risk can be controlled) and an essential part of most journeys. However, the IHT is concerned that—because of political tensions associated with being perceived as "anti-car"—walking is not receiving the priority and encouragement it deserves. It is not being positively championed by Government. The Government must be urged to show greater purpose, direction and leadership in encouraging walking.


  26.  As it stands, it is difficult to determine the priority given to walking in local authorities' Local Transport Plans (LTP). The DETR should encourage local authorities to be explicit in terms of the expenditure allocated to walking, and the outcomes derived, in the annual progress reports as part of the LTP process. Additionally, the DETR should require those local authorities that have not prepared an acceptable local walking strategy to do so within the next 12 months. Straightforward advice about how best to produce these is available in a traffic advisory leaflet from the DETR.

  27.  The status and priority of walking in the planning process must be increased. This should be properly reflected in legislation, planning policy guidance and investment programmes, particularly those concerned with casualty reduction, speed management, responsible driver behaviour, and creating compact, people-friendly land-use patterns and designs. With respect to the latter point, the DETR should issue revised PPG 13 as soon as possible and ensure that local authorities act in accordance with it. Pedestrians feature significantly in the nation's road casualty figures—in particular, the child pedestrian record is poor (DETR, 2000b, page 10). Pedestrian training for children (by parents and schools) has an important contribution to make but should not reduce the onus on motorists to drive considerably and responsibly.

  28.  While there is a rightful place for significant and sustained investment in major transport schemes, money must also be earmarked for smaller scale schemes to pave the way for improvements in the pedestrian environment. A balanced and integrated approach is required. This means re-orientating priorities and freeing up road space for vulnerable users through a range measures—both "carrot" and "stick". But clear priorities are needed. As a guide, where choices are to be made, particularly in LTPs, the following priorities should be adopted when developing transport and land use strategies, and in targeting investment:

    1.  Pedestrians.

    2.  Cyclists.

    3.  Public transport passengers.

    4.  Deliveries to business.

    5.  Other business traffic

    6.  Shoppers and other visitors  By Car

    7.  Commuters.

A Commitment to Maintenance

  29.  Well-maintained highways (including footways), signing, road markings and street lighting are essential for all highway users. Encouraging walking demands proper maintenance of existing and new assets that directly improves walking conditions.


  30.  The IHT believes that a national walking strategy would provide greater purpose and direction. It would strengthen the focus on, and commitment to, practical actions to improve conditions for pedestrians. In terms of targets, it is questionable whether existing data—at national and local level—are sufficiently robust to permit meaningful targets to be set and monitored. However, targets do serve to focus the mind on action. The national target for increasing cycling has stimulated local authorities to research and establish pragmatic local targets, often in conjunction with local groups, that have been helpful in focusing and co-ordinating action. Accordingly, if the data constraints can be overcome, the IHT would support the introduction of challenging, measurable and achievable targets for encouraging walking based on modal shift rather than absolute levels of walking.


An Ageing Population

  31.  Demographic change means that there will be an "age shift" over the next 30 years with many more older people remaining active for much longer. Their particular needs, and fragility, should not be overlooked. The Committee could usefully take this opportunity to consider the needs of an ageing population in the longer term, say, 30 years hence. Tackling today's problems tomorrow is not a sound approach. We must tackle tomorrow's problems today.

Action by Individuals

  32.  Last, but by no means least, it is also important to positively promote the benefits of, and encourage, walking as part of wider initiatives to raise the awareness of transport users about the consequences of their travel choices, both positive and negative.


  33.  The IHT would welcome the opportunity to present oral evidence if the Committee would find it of assistance in conducting its inquiry.


  1.  Guidelines for Providing for Journeys on Foot, IHT, 2000.

  2.  Encouraging walking: advice to local authorities, DETR, 2000a.

  3.  Tomorrow's Roads—Safer for Everyone: The Government's road safety strategy and casualty reduction targets for 2010, DETR, 2000b.

January 2001

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