Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by The Institute of Logistics and Transport (WTC 11)

WALKING IN TOWN AND CITIES

Introduction

  The Director of Policies at the Institute of Logistics and Transport has overall responsibility for the development of policy for the Institute, including the brokering of policy responses to Government and other bodies. He has worked in both local government and private sector consultancy for 11 years prior to taking up this appointment in September 2000.

  He has worked on pedestrian and access projects since 1992, including the development of the Pedestrian Policy for the Avon Area (1995) and training of planning, transport and highways professionals on pedestrian and access auditing. He has spoken at engineering and planning conferences on walking promotion and access auditing, and was co-opted onto the infrastructure Sub-Group of the original National Walking Strategy Working Group. He has also worked as a specific Pedestrian and Disability Issues officer and as Team Leader covering sustainable transport in Bristol.

Contribution of Walking to Urban Life

  The role of walking in relation to the development and continued renaissance of town and city centres should not be underestimated. Cities such as Birmingham have successfully demonstrated that radical remodelling of a city centre environment can provide much improved access for all sectors of the community, improve the quality of its retail and commercial core, and provide opportunities for leisure and relaxation in public squares and spaces. It also gives a clear message that the legacy of "predict and provide" for the motorist is no longer tenable, and the removal of segregated crossings and underpasses is a clear way of achieving this.

  Whether a trip is made entirely on foot, or as part of a more complex trip chain, the role of the pedestrian part of the trip chain has in the past been neglected, and only in the past five to 10 years have we really seen more focused attention on this.

  In terms of reliance on the private car, one of the underlying messages of the Government's Ten Year Plan is to encourage people to think more about the necessity of the journey, and the modes which they use. Evidence from towns and cities, particularly where there is a ring road serving easy access to its centre (eg Bristol) has suggested that the difficulties with the pedestrian stage of the journey can often make people switch to other modes for the whole of their journey. Therefore, whether as part of longer trip chains, or as a local walk trip, provision of investment in the pedestrian environment is vital to ensure that this transport mode can properly play its role in the delivery of the strategic Ten Year Plan.

The Main Barriers and Obstacles to Promoting and Increasing Pedestrian Trips

  There are both quantitative and qualitative factors which affect the attractiveness of walking. Research carried out in Bristol during 1995-98 is symptomatic of the kind of problems that local authorities face when attempting to increase the number of walk trips.

  Quantitative; for example:

    —  Walking trips can be difficult to assess because of their dispersed nature and unidentified "suppressed demand" for missing links.

    —  The number of physical barriers encountered on any journey, from short-term problems (eg poor maintenance, overhanging vegetation, and missing signs) through to long term problems (eg missing pedestrian links, busy main roads); assessed by comprehensive access auditing.

    —  Investment will, by necessity be focused on key corridors into city and suburban centres, schools, hospitals and other community foci, not "from the door".

  Qualitative, for example:

    —  Personal safety and security on routes.

    —  Personal understanding of the route and legibility of signing and waymarking to the individual.

    —  The ambience and sense of place through which the pedestrian passes.

    —  The perceived inconvenience of walking including weather and delay risk factors.

  To overcome these barriers, it is necessary to develop a "universal design" approach to the improvement of the pedestrian environment, which is inclusive of all members of society. Rather than merely identify and remove barriers, opportunities need to be taken to provide design solutions which take careful account of physical construction, signing, routing and other factors which would lead to increased use of the pedestrian environment. Particular attention should be given to the quality of town centre pedestrianised areas, and public transport interchanges, and the quality of links leading to these destinations.

Measures needed to promote walking

  During the past five years many local authorities have already taken up the challenge to develop their own Pedestrian Strategies and work programmes that reflect the increased emphasis on walking. Ranging from very comprehensive technical documents, through to more straightforward statements of policy, the "Encouraging Walking" guidance from the DETR brought together best practice and advice into a clear summary document. However, the key issue remains the level of resources needed to realise an effective and user-friendly pedestrian network, that often cuts across a wide number of local authority budgets, making delivery difficult.

  The appointment of a number of Pedestrian Officers within local authorities has helped to keep the profile of walking higher than would have been the case, but unless the views of this professional are truly recognised by other parts of the organisation, there is a risk that overall issue can become sidelined and lose its importance.

  Promotion of walking falls into two categories: those that are information, publicity and campaign based, and those that are levered on investment in the pedestrian environment. To deliver longer term modal increase and sustained walking patterns in the UK, the latter is more effective as long as the revenue is protected to keep new and upgraded infrastructure maintained.

  Local authorities also need greater powers, for example beyond the 20 mph speed limits and Home Zone pilots, to create pedestrian priority zones within town centres and legislative changes to enable a more effective response to the needs of pedestrians within the context of Local Transport Plan programmes.

CURRENT BEST PRACTICE

  There is still a need to bring together a comprehensive guide of best practice for practitioners in the pedestrian environment. A number of professional institutes and bodies have produced guidance on different aspects of access and mobility but this needs drawing together into one coherent "Pedestrian Digest" that allows practitioners to grasp and develop the design and technical assessment methods that work well. Bringing together of pedestrian audit methodologies into one common audit is another area which is considered vital to securing best value in pedestrian projects.

THE IMPORTANCE OF A NATIONAL WALKING STRATEGY

  The setting of national targets and the publication of a National Walking Strategy are still considered essential. From experience, many local authorities awaited the trigger of the original draft NWS to start to develop their own policies and plans, in the same way as the National Cycling Strategy. Whilst authorities have now embarked on their own pedestrian projects, the establishment of a clear national policy does assist in keeping the walking issue high on the technical professional and technical agenda. Whereas the pedestrian environment features heavily in other specific projects such as safer routes to school, travel plans, and in public transport, traffic management investment, the energy and dynamism needed to re-push investment for the pedestrian (and in particular disabled people) requires direction at central government level.

  The issue of targets and monitoring may be more difficult to develop, because of the variety of trip purposes for pedestrians, and the accurate identification of trips, which are components of complex trip chains. Whilst modelling of pedestrian behaviour within confined study areas has been successfully developed, strategic pedestrian modelling is more complex and could prove problematic if all local authorities had to assess pedestrian movement to this level. Which regions should bear the greatest responsibility for modal shift to walking would also be a key issue.

The role of Government in delivering Successful Measures

  The test for Government in terms of successful delivery of pedestrian measures is to keep the role and positioning of walking high on the transport agenda. At central, regional and local government level quality work has been carried out in terms of guidance, experimental measures and dissemination of best practice, but it still lacks an overall coherence and importance in the same way as other strategies and policy directives. Consequently this can mean that the importance of walking projects can become eroded at the local level and fail to win resources because of other competing projects. For example, in the mid 1990s budgets for pedestrian projects in the Avon area began to reflect the level of investment needed in walking to change travel behaviour (when nationally it was developing as a strong issue) but investment has fallen away in relative terms since then.

  This also means that the funding mechanisms for benefiting the pedestrian environment need to be further simplified, mainly because of the multiple local authority budgets that pedestrian projects come from (public rights of way, park and leisure, traffic management, highway maintenance, pedestrianisation) and the ability to attract major capital funding for a comprehensive pedestrian strategy through public sector borrowing.

The need for increased skills and training within this area

  This is the area which requires the most focused and urgent attention. The skills and professional abilities needed to plan effectively and inclusively for the pedestrian are not consistent nationally, and are too often dependent on selected individuals being involved in the design process. The recruitment of local authority pedestrian officers to focus on policy and design issues has been a positive step forward, but also relies to the standard to which they can train and support others in the organisation to "think pedestrian". Problems have occurred when the level of appointment has meant that they carry little weight, or promotion of the pedestrian point of view relies key personalities in the organisation that are sympathetic to this issue.

  Training has been delivered through in-house and outsourced methods, but again this has not promoted a national minimum standard. Consequently the physical appearance of schemes on the ground has been variable. This is compounded by the lack of universal design standards for pedestrian and highway access auditing.

  There is a clear role for professional institutes to continue to work together with Government to consolidate the methods and best practice to date, and to distil the material into a meaningful toolkit that will enable the implementation of a coherent National Strategy at local level. This will hopefully sustain longer-term interest and commitment to walking-based projects, not in isolation, but integrated with other transport schemes that will strongly rely on the walking element for their success.

Jon Harris

Director of Policies

January 2001


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 2 February 2001