Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by the DETR Joint Cycling/Walking Working Group: Professional Training and Information (WTC 17)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  This submission is concerned primarily with training issues raised in the committee's question: "Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate skills and training." Other questions raised by the Committee are also answered in section 4 (below). The comments on these questions, however, are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the DETR Joint Cycling/Walking Working Group.

  1.2  We are all pedestrians. Walking is the most sustainable mode of travel. Pedestrians are also the most vulnerable of travellers.

  1.3  Among the many important features of the 1998 Transport White Paper is an increased commitment to encourage walking as an everyday means of transport. Walking had been hitherto a relatively neglected element of transport policy.

2.  REMIT OF THE DETR JOINT CYCLING/WALKING WORKING GROUP: PROFESSIONAL TRAINING AND INFORMATION

  2.1  The new emphasis on providing for walking has important implications for professional training; to help produce properly equipped professionals capable of knowing how best to achieve quality provision for pedestrians.

  2.2  To help address these new policy objectives, in 1998 the DETR set up a Working Party to review the adequacy of existing training and to make recommendations for changes. Its Terms of Reference are:

    —  To consider the training and technical information needs of professionals engaged in providing for cyclists and pedestrians; the incorporation of cycling and walking within the wider development and planning processes; and the promotion of cycling and walking issues, including conveying messages to senior staff;

    —  To propose actions that would improve the range and quality of professional training;

    —  To identify any significant gaps in the flow of technical and professional knowledge.

  2.3  The group's remit required us to review the adequacy of existing training both for those starting out on related professions like traffic engineering and town planning and also for professionals already in the field who are now required to take walking (and cycling) much more seriously.

3.  CONCLUSIONS FROM THE WORK OF THE GROUP OF RELEVANCE TO THE INQUIRY

Policy issues

  3.1  The group concluded that it is essential that senior officers in local government are aware of the need to provide adequate infrastructure for walking as well as marketing initiatives to promote walking.

  3.2  We believe that it is essential that walking issues are not divorced from other aspects of traffic engineering and traffic management or urban design. It is essential that walking and pedestrian matters be covered as part of an inter-disciplinary approach to transport planning.

  3.3  Not all of the skills and the full range of knowledge will be vested in one person in an organisation. Although many local authorities have a walking officer (these responsibilities are often combined with other activities), and some have an "access officer" (where the main responsibility is to represent the transport needs of the mobility handicapped), this can be a mixed blessing. Specialist knowledge within an organisation is useful, but it can marginalise that knowledge. The aim should be to encourage an understanding of the importance and the needs of pedestrians (and cyclists), more widely within such organisations.

  3.4  We concluded that the development of specific analytical tools to investigate pedestrian behaviour would be helpful in lifting the status of this group of professionals within a design office. Modelling, evaluation, audit and level of service review techniques can add to the "respectability" with which pedestrians are viewed among those whose natural instinct is often to focus on the motorised traveller.

Skills needed

  3.5  A variety of skills are needed by transport professionals working to improve conditions for pedestrians. These include planning, design, management, maintenance, understanding the special needs of those with mobility impairments and marketing capabilities. In particular, professionals must understand the significance of walking as a mode of travel. The working group concluded that awareness of the knowledge and skills that are required for those providing for pedestrians appears to be low.

Initial training

  3.6  Not only are there a large number of universities and colleges involved in training professionals, but also many different university departments cover walking issues. As a result professionals in the field have a variety of training backgrounds and qualifications.

  3.7  There is a need for those who provide higher education to ensure that walking issues are properly addressed as core mandatory subjects in those courses of particular relevance. These include: architecture; urban design; town and transportation planning; civil; highway and traffic engineering.

  3.8  The group also believed that there was a need for potential employers (local authorities, central government, pressure groups, consulting engineers and consultants, for examples) to forge links with higher education institutions through the professional bodies. Unfortunately this does not appear to be happening at present. Improved linkages would lead to better identification of training needs and skills development.

  3.9  A fairer and more consistent means of obtaining skills was thought to be necessary by the group. The routes to professional qualifications should allow those from non-traditional backgrounds to progress. The development of the transportation National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (N/SVQs) may well prove to be beneficial but currently too little experience of their application exists. N/SVQs cover various aspects of training that relate to walking and pedestrian issues but which might be expanded. Marketing of pedestrian facilities, for example new routes, was seen by the groups to be a particular weakness.

  3.10  A leaflet to make people aware of the different routes available if pursuing a career providing for walking and cycling has been prepared by the working group and is soon to be published by DETR.

In-career training

  3.11  At the request of the working group, research was commissions by DETR into the training undertaken by professionals. The report, "Cycle Initiatives Register—Professional Training Extension", included an assessment of the need for education and vocational training for walking professionals as well. (A Traffic Advisory Leaflet [TAL 10/99 Cycling Initiatives Register] was also produced which was sent to all local authorities and there was also an accompanying diskette available.) Further research into the nature of education and training for walking provision may be warranted.

  3.12  Despite the existence of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) courses, practitioners undertake little training while in their employment. Many depend on publication alone. Local authorities may not be able to allocate sufficient resources to training and information gathering and professionals therefore may be unaware of the information and guidance that is available.

Information and guidance

  3.13  Much information, guidance and advice is available and the group prepared an extensive list of publications covering policy, design guidance, disaggregated by type. This is due to be placed on the National Cycling Forum's web site. The problem appears to be that professionals suffer from "information overload" and find it difficult to identify the most useful and relevant sources of guidance from the vast number of publications on the subject. As a result they may be unaware of recent developments. This may change, however, with improved Internet access to information sources.

Other Outputs of the Working Group

  3.14  Three articles have been published by the group: "Planning for Cycling and Walking: Improving Professional Training", in Highways & Transportation and Survey journals; "Mechanisms to Deliver Suitable Skills Regarding Bicycles for Those Entering Cycle Planning/Engineering, and to raise the Status of Those Already Working in This Area" also in Highways & Transportation.

4.  ANSWERS TO OTHER QUESTIONS POSED BY THE COMMITTEE

  4.1  The contribution of walking to the Urban Renaissance, healthy living and reducing dependency on cars.

  Towns and cities initially grew because they were locations where people could easily congregate to do business and trade. Movement was primarily on foot. As a result, the physical environment of historic areas is often designed more towards travel on foot than other modes. The role of walking in historic centres as well as other urban areas should be developed.

  4.2  In planning and designing urban areas it must be recognised that pedestrians are not just travellers—they are employers, employees, shoppers, customers and visitors, all of whom contribute to the vitality of an urban area. Improving the conditions for pedestrians should be seen as a pre-requisite for urban regeneration. Not only is walking healthy exercise, but it provides an alternative to car-use for shorter and multiple-link trips. For example, some 20 minutes moderate exercise three times a week can ward off obesity and heart disease. Walking is the most sustainable mode of travel.

  4.3  The reasons for the decline in walking and the main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the number of journeys made by foot

  Walking has declined for a variety of reasons. In its report Safety of Pedestrians and Cyclists in Urban Areas (2000), the European Transport Safety Council pointed out there are various safety issues that pedestrians are perceived to face which are likely to discourage walking. These are:

    —  vulnerability (vehicle strikes are often fatal);

    —  flexibility (it is difficult to predict pedestrian behaviour which can increase the likelihood of accidents);

    —  instability (any accident involving a pedestrian will invariably mean injuries to that person);

    —  invisibility (pedestrians are small units compared to vehicles such as lorries);

    —  differing abilities (pedestrian abilities range from slow/infirm walkers to those who are brisk and confident);

    —  consciousness of effort (reliance on foot power encourages walkers to take short cuts which may be dangerous); and

    —  estrangement (pedestrians are made to feel like strangers in the streetspace and are not made welcome).

  4.4  What should be done to promote walking, including the creation of the city squares, the role of pedestrianisation, Home Zones, additional measures to restrain traffic, the harmonisation of walking and public transport and improved safety and security for pedestrians

  Promotion of walking as an everyday mode of travel requires a range of initiatives including:

    —  planning high quality routes for pedestrians between the main generators of movement: schools, colleges, hospitals, shops, sports stadia, leisure facilities, public transport nodes and residential areas etc;

    —  ensuring that all development plans (eg UDPs, planning briefs etc) emphasise the development of sites with easy access on foot;

    —  giving priority to the location of new developments at sites where they can be easily accessed on foot;

    —  designing developments to ensure easy access/egress on foot;

    —  adopting more city squares, pedestrianisation of town centres and Home Zones to improve the urban environment;

    —  designing the supporting highway infrastructure (both links and junctions) to make walking safer (for example by improving security) and easier by relating routes to desire lines; and

    —  introducing measures to reduce traffic levels and vehicle speeds (such as traffic cells and traffic calming etc).

  4.5  What can be learnt from good practice both in England and elsewhere?

  Continental Europe has, for many years, planned and designed urban areas with much greater emphasis on pedestrian facilities than in the UK. This has been the case particularly in Denmark, Sweden (although their facilities for those with mobility impairments are less good) and the Netherlands (via their approach to planning and location). Great emphasis has been placed on urban design and the needs of pedestrians in Germany, for example in Hennef, Bruhl and Buehl. Other places have also made significant advances in providing much enhanced pedestrian facilities especially where this is the dominant mode, notably Hong Kong and Singapore. In England, notable improvements have been made in places such as York, Birmingham, Borehamwood and Cambridge.

  4.6  The key features of successful schemes is in reducing the intrusion of vehicular traffic and in re-orienting the priorities of road-space allocation towards pedestrians. Schemes that are designed to support pedestrian desire lines and enhance the physical environment are popular. Good design must be supplemented by other measures to reduce traffic levels and speeds. Improving the urban environment should not be directed exclusively at town and city centres; much can be done to enhance the conditions for pedestrians in other urban areas.

  4.7  Encouraging walking must be central to urban renaissance. In Australia, for example, the Living Neighbourhoods concept uses a combination of community and transport planning techniques to bring about long term behavioural change within existing communities. Steer Davies Gleave has pioneered the technique. The aim is to develop a culture of sustainability in a neighbourhood, in addition to planning the physical design. A Living Neighbourhood is a partnership between the people who use the neighbourhood and those who provide the services and facilities. The results so far are very encouraging. Within three suburban areas of Adelaide, car trips have been reduced by between 10-21 per cent while walking and cycling trips have risen by between six per cent to 21 per cent while walking and cycling trips have risen by between six per cent to 40 per cent.

  4.8  Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate skills and training.

  See sections two and three above.

  4.9  Whether all Government Departments, their agencies, including the Highways Agency, and local authorities are taking appropriate measures, and in particular whether Local Transport Plans, PPG 13 and the Government Paper, Encouraging Walking are adequate.

  Government departments are required to prepare Travel Plans for their employees. This will, over time, encourage greater access by employees and visitors on foot. In addition, Steer Davies Gleave has recently prepared new guidance for the DETR on Transport Assessment for Development Proposals to support the forthcoming revised PPG13, which will encourage the location and design of developments to make access on foot easier.

  4.10  In general, it is uncertain whether the Full LTPs (for Local Walking Strategies) published last July give sufficient encouragement to the promotion of walking. It will be essential, therefore, that the government continues to emphasise the vital role that walking plays in daily life and the need to plan and provide better facilities in order to encourage it.

  4.11  In particular, whether greater priority should be given to measures to promote walking, including a greater share of the Government budget and the re-allocation of road space.

  If walking is to be encouraged it must form a much more central role in transport policy at both the national and local level. This will require:

    —  allocating greater funding for improvements to pedestrian facilities within budgets, especially maintaining footways;

    —  funding of high quality demonstration projects;

    —  giving priority to pedestrians in the allocation of road space where they are the dominant mode; and

    —  encouraging the implementation of Travel Plans to encourage behavioural change, possibly by tax incentives.

  4.12  Whether national targets should be set and a National Strategy published.

  A National Walking Strategy could provide purpose and direction for policy. It could strengthen the focus on, and commitment to, practical actions to improve conditions for pedestrians. Targets for casualty reduction certainly galvanised professionals to work together to deliver improvements. However, in terms of targets for walking, it is questionable whether existing data—at national and local level—are sufficiently robust to permit meaningful targets to be set and monitored. If targets are set they should be of modal shift rather than absolute levels of walking. These could form part of the Local Transport Plan monitoring process.

5.  CONCLUSIONS

  According to the National Travel Survey 80 per cent of trips under one mile are on foot while walking accounts for 27 per cent of all journeys (by length).

  Walking accounts for 12 per cent of commuting journeys; 30 per cent of shopping trips; and 16 per cent of leisure journeys.

  The importance of walking as a mode of travel is not reflected in the importance given to it in transport planning and in road-space allocation.

  The training of professionals understates the importance that should be accorded to the provision of better conditions for pedestrians.

  Providing for pedestrians should be undertaken within a holistic approach to traffic management and urban renaissance.

  Walking is the most sustainable mode of travel and should be encouraged.

Derek Palmer

Chairman

January 2001


 
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