Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by the National TravelWise Association (WTC 15)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

  The National TravelWise Association is a partnership of local authorities and other organisations working together to promote sustainable transport. The National TravelWise Association aims to reduce society's dependence on car use by:

    —  Raising awareness of environmental, health, economic and social effects of car use;

    —  Changing attitudes towards car use;

    —  Promoting more sustainable modes of travel and lifestyles which require less travel;

    —  Encouraging action to change travel behaviour and reduce unnecessary car use.

  Our present membership base consists of nearly 90 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, and is expanding rapidly. We welcome this opportunity to comment on the issue of "Walking in Towns and Cities" because for most people:

    (i)  Walking is a viable alternative to cars for some journeys.

    (ii)  Every journey starts and ends with walking—irrespective of whether walking is the main or secondary form of travel.

1.  CONTRIBUTION OF WALKING

  Improving the attractiveness, security and economic success of towns and cities is key to increasing levels of walking. Our most attractive towns and cities are those built at "People Scale" around pedestrians rather than around the motor car.

  There is conclusive evidence available about the health benefits of walking and cycling in terms of reductions in mortality and morbidity (such as heart disease and stroke, osteoporosis, obesity, mental health and well-being and mobility). However, approximately six out of ten adults in the UK are not physically active enough to benefit their health, a fact that is related to increased levels of car ownership and reducing levels of physical activity[1].

  In daily life, walking is mainly a viable method of travel for short distances only. In 1996, 96 per cent of journeys where walking was the main mode were under two miles in length, and yet, only three in five journeys under two miles in length[2] were completed on foot—a third were completed by car. There is therefore considerable potential here for achieving a shift towards walking.

  Walking, as a proportion of all journeys, has declined from 34 per cent to 28 per cent in the 10 years between 1986 and 1996[3]. This is a reflection of changing travel patterns, with more journeys under two miles in length being completed by non-walk modes, but it is also a fact that individual journeys have got longer (and preclude walking). In 1986, less than half of all completed journeys were over two miles in length, compared to 55 per cent in 1996. However, every journey, irrespective of distance and main method of travel, starts and ends with walking. Better provision and integration of non-car modes will be essential to attract people out of their cars.

2.  REASONS FOR DECLINE AND OBSTACLES TO INCREASING LEVELS OF WALKING

  Car ownership: increased car ownership and popularity of travel.

  Distances travelled: there has been an increase in the distances travelled which reduces the opportunities to make journeys by foot.

  Planning of new developments:

    1.  edge of town and out of town developments are less accessible by foot or combination of foot and public transport than by car;

    2.  increased provision for car parking and car access in recent new developments has increased the scale and makes walking less attractive;

    3.  access for motor vehicles in new developments is usually considered first and access by foot is often then "added on" around it. This can result in un-attractive and indirect routes for pedestrians.

  Pedestrian priority: pedestrians have with the growth in motor car use, been treated as "second-class citizens" on the roads, with pedestrians having to give way or go under or over roads so as to not reduce traffic flows.

  Inconvenience: the walking journey may be longer than by car. Difficulty in carrying things back home.

  Time: normally walking takes longer but in congested city centres there can be a time benefit.

  Road danger: safe crossing points of major roads clearly are a requirement. Mixing with low speed and low volume traffic in town centres is undesirable but probably does not have a great deterrent effect. With increased traffic levels walking on footways adjacent to roads becomes more unpleasant with noise and fumes.

  Fear of crime: particularly at night and in certain areas. Tends to have a larger deterrent effect on women and the elderly. Street lighting and CCTV are important in reducing actual and perceived crime. Need to work with local Community Safety Partnerships.

  Lack of fitness: this may be more perceived than real but people may feel walking is a chore and is hard work. Leisure walking can break that cycle—there is a need to recognise the strong link between leisure and utility walking.

  Poor highway maintenance: probably not likely to deter many people but a poorly maintained footway not only results in a less favourable walking experience, it gives a message about how the community views its importance. Most maintenance money is spent on carriageway repairs because vehicles cause the most damage. Despite the capital money available through the LTP settlements, revenue money for maintenance through the SSA is still very tight. Are we prepared as a society to see better footways at the expense of relatively worse roads?

  Poor design of facilities: for instance inadequate footway widths or long waiting times at pelican crossings.

  Poor enforcement of traffic regulations: persistent parking on the footway for example is rarely prosecuted.

  Poor highway management: is it clear how faults should be reported to and is it easy to report them? Is there confusion about roles between County and District or within a Unitary Council? Integrated street management policies are required.

  Lack of signing: signage for pedestrians tends only to exist in the core of town centres. More extensive signage would direct pedestrians to a convenient, pleasant and, hopefully, well maintained route—it would also reinforce the value the local community gives to it. Signage, by itself, is permanent advertising for walking.

  Route discontinuities and community severance: this is perhaps the biggest bar to walking and often the most difficult to solve.

  Tensions between cyclists and pedestrians: the issue of joint use footways still causes much debate—they can be unpopular with pedestrians and cyclists alike. However they should both be seen as attractive sustainable travel modes to the car and not competition with one another. Despite the disadvantages, shared-use paths are better than no facility for cyclists at all. This is particularly relevant for one-way streets.

  Footway obstructions: "A" boards, pavement shop displays and wheeled bins can all prove to be obstructions, especially for the disabled.

3.  PROMOTION OF WALKING

  City squares and pedestrianisation: pedestrianising city and town centres can create a more pleasant environment for shoppers, workers etc, encourage more walking around the centre and more leisure walking trips in the centre. However, pedestrianisation cannot be seen in isolation as it will not help to reduce dependence on cars on its own. To do this the pedestrianisation must go hand in hand with:

    —  improved pedestrian routes linking the centre to nearby residential areas;

    —  the introduction of residents parking schemes and home zones in residential areas surrounding centres to improve pedestrian safety and deter rat-running and displaced parking; and

    —  improved provision of public transport into the central area in order to make access to the city centre by public transport more attractive than access by car. Done incorrectly, pedestrianisation can actually reduce the convenience of bus access to City Centres, and thus reduce its attractiveness.

  Home zones and traffic calming: reducing vehicle access and speeds in residential areas has the effect of increasing the attractiveness and safety of walking whilst also making it relatively more inconvenient and slower to drive. This has the added benefit of encouraging residents to make local journey by foot rather than car. However, the detailed design of traffic calming schemes is crucial in determining their success.

  Whole journey approach: It has been clearly shown for public transport that when a whole route approach is taken to the delivery of a bus service, including the right service level provision, bus priority, ticketing incentives and good marketing and promotion, dramatic increases in patronage can be achieved. There is considerable scope for a similar approach to be taken for promoting walking, particularly if a whole journey approach is taken. Walking is not necessarily the main mode of travel for the majority of journeys, but in multi-mode journeys, such as using the bus, the users poor perception of the walking stage can be the main deterrent to using the bus.

  Safety and security: Personal security is a key issue for increasing the attractiveness of walking. Better lighting, removing subways, blind corners and overgrown vegetation will help. Increased levels of walking will provide by itself better surveillance.

  Raising awareness: car drivers tend to incorporate their everyday activities around the car, so they are excluding the possibility of walking before they even get a chance. To be successful in raising awareness of walking, there is a need to "disrupt" this unconscious thought process. Messages and campaigns need to promote walking as enjoyable but should also focus on the health, fitness and weight loss benefits of regular walking.

4.  TAKING APPROPRIATE MEASURES

  Government action: the awaited final version of Planning Policy Guidance 13 (PPG13) provides an opportunity to improve the accessibility and the provision made for walking in new developments. This is an important opportunity that should not be missed.

  Local government: promote walking as part of various transport-related strategies contained within Local Transport Plan. In addition to local walking strategies, access strategies have been developed for some cities, with priority being given to pedestrians in city centres relative to other modes of travel.

  Funding: local authorities cannot rely on LTP funding alone to pay for new transport infrastructure. There are examples of cities which have developed a series of area transport plans, whose objective is to secure financial contributions from developers to pay for transport infrastructure improvements, focused on walking, cycling and buses.

  Raising awareness: the level of marketing and promotion directed at encouraging walking varies across the country, and is uncoordinated. Currently, the promotion of walking is targeted at primary schools, mainly undertaken as part of the "Walk to School" weeks promoted by the National TravelWise Association and the Pedestrian Association. A co-ordinated communication strategy needs to be developed by all the stakeholders with an interest in promoting sustainable travel to ensure that walking receives a higher profile. Partnership working with the Health Sector will be crucial.

5.  PRIORITY

  Funding: encouraging more walking will ultimately rely on making walking or a combination of walking and public transport a more attractive option than using the car. This will require significant improvements in walking facilities. Compared to the central and local government budget spent on roads and access (predominately motor vehicle) the budget spent on walking routes is very small. Making a difference to walking facilities will require a much larger share of the government budget, but more importantly, it will require a real commitment to reallocation of road space and road time—for example, shorter pedestrian crossing waiting times for pedestrians.

  Re-allocation of road space: to really improve conditions for pedestrians, crossing the road to create a direct route must be much easier; this will mean cars stopping more often to give way to pedestrians. To improve the environment for pedestrians more road space will be required for wider pavements and more landscaping. To encourage more local and city centre journeys to be made by foot, car access needs to be limited, to make it less attractive.

  Safety: for pedestrians also needs to be improved; however this should not be at the expense of convenience and provision of direct routes. Historically, provision has always been made for motor vehicles first, with pedestrian safety considerations being provided by restricting pedestrian movements in the vicinity of roads. The thought process needs to change so that on appropriate routes, good design and restrictions on vehicle movements and speeds are used to improve pedestrian safety rather than by the use of railings and inconvenient pedestrian crossing points.

6.  SKILLS AND TRAINING

  "Whole journey" approach: this multi-modal approach to the examination of journeys is a relatively new concept for local authorities, which challenges traditional working methods, in terms of partnership working, working practices, and budget allocations. This method of working needs developing further.

  Promotion of travel awareness: marketing will be a key skill in the promotion of walking, but this is not a traditional skill in local government. Greater training in marketing concepts and promotion methodologies is needed for local government officers if campaigns to promote walking are to be effective.

  Design guidelines: there are plenty of skills in designing physical environments but there may be an argument that the guidelines for design are over weighted towards the car. This is particularly so there is a choice between carriageway space and footway space. Guidelines may need to be reviewed.

  Footway/footpath hierarchies: the issue of establishing a footway/footpath hierarchy is important and further advice on this would be helpful eg level of usage, level of maintenance, special signing (including signage for vehicle drivers where a route is crossing a carriageway). There should be encouragement through LTP funding to provide improved facilities (and route continuity) on the primary routes. Advice on evaluation techniques to assess the benefit in relation to cost of major schemes for pedestrians (eg a new bridge) would also be helpful.

  Understanding needs: In many cases there is still a need for better understanding and appreciation of the needs of pedestrians by highway design engineers. To really provide pedestrian friendly facilities, the pedestrian's needs must be considered and designed first and then the traffic access design around that. This different way of thinking will require engineers to acquire new skills and a different approach to planning and design. The "Safer Routes to School" approach to identifying need is a good example of how this should be done and Government's New Approach to Appraisal (NATA) for new transport investment projects will help.

7.  NATIONAL WALKING STRATEGY

  Some may argue that the need for a "National Walking Strategy" has been superseded with the publication of detailed advice in the Government Paper, Encouraging Walking, along with other Traffic Advisory Leaflets on "Framework for a local walking strategy" and "Monitoring Walking". However, we view the absence of a definitive "National Walking Strategy" as a missed opportunity for government to influence local walking strategies, thus ensuring co-ordinated action across the country.

  A well-conceived "National Walking Strategy" containing a vision, a series of objectives and targets, a suite of performance indicators and a definitive monitoring framework, would give local authorities the clear guidance they seek (and a template), to expedite the development of their own strategy. In the absence of a "National Walking Strategy", there is the danger of uncoordinated action across the country, with individual local authorities developing poorly conceived strategies containing incompatible monitoring methodologies. This would make benchmarking between local authorities and against government "National Travel Survey" indicators difficult or impossible.

TARGETS

  In the Government Paper, Encouraging Walking, the advisory group proposed three national targets based on data from the National Travel Survey, namely:

    —  Halt the downward trend in walking by 2003;

    —  Increase to one third the proportion of journeys where walking is the main mode by the year 2008 (28 per cent in 1996);

    —  Increase the average distance walked to 250 miles per person per year by 2008 (195 miles per person in 1996);

but "Government decided not to adopt national targets, which are difficult for any of us to relate to our everyday behaviour. It does, however, see a role for local targets".

  The National TravelWise Association agrees with government that the proposed national targets are difficult to relate to in their current form because local authorities do not currently collect the equivalent information at the local level. However, we do think that well-conceived National Walking Targets and performance indicators are necessary. We see scope to develop meaningful national targets based on travel data collected as part of the National Travel Survey that can have equivalents in local walking strategies. For example, the National Travel Survey publishes information on school travel by different age groups—equivalent information could be collected at a local level during the monitoring of school travel plans.

  There is an opportunity here for government to address the issues surrounding the apparent uniqueness of the National Travel Survey data. It should be possible to introduce a standardised monitoring methodology for walking that will enable local authorities to directly compare local with National Travel Survey data, see previous bullet point. This would aid benchmarking.

  We hope that the content of our submission is self-explanatory. Should the Committee wish for elaboration on any of the points made, there is willingness to attend the Inquiry.

Brian Smith

Chairman

January 2001


1   HEA (1999)-Making T.H.E. links. Back

2   DETR (1998)-Focus on Personal Travel. Back

3   DETR (1998)-Focus on Personal Travel. Back


 
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