Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by the Centre for Technology Strategy (WTC 20)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

1.  TRAVEL BY FOOT

  A lot of travel is within walking distances: A fifth of all trips could be walked in 15 minutes. (29 per cent of journeys are under one mile; a further 16 per cent are of one to two miles.)

  Although walking constitutes only 3 per cent of the total mileage travelled it is a very important mode in terms of access. This is reflected in the proportion of journeys undertaken by foot alone; 28 per cent of journeys are undertaken by foot, with another 2 per cent by bicycle. This proportion varies from a combined walk and bicycle total of 34 per cent in London, an average of 30-33 per cent in all other urban areas and 24 per cent in rural areas. In addition to this, walking is also a key subsidiary mode for motorised travel (accounting for 36 per cent of journey stages in the National Travel Survey).

  Walk/cycle trips are a particularly large proportion of education (49 per cent), leisure (34 per cent) and shopping (34 per cent) trips. Only 15 per cent of work trips and 11 per cent of in course of work trips are walked or cycled.

Table 1

WALK AND CYCLE TRIPS


Per person per year
% of all journeys

Work
24
15
During work
4
11
Education
34
49
Escort to Education
24
48
Leisure
113
34
Shopping
76
34
Other personal
45
23

Total
320
30

  Source: National Travel Survey 1994-96.

2.  THE DECLINE OF WALKING

  The amount of walking has declined by a third in the last 15 years. The National Travel Survey indicates the drop has been greatest in smaller urban areas and large provincial cities. In the 10 years 1985-86 to 1994-96 walk trips dropped by 14 per cent overall, but 16-20 per cent in towns of three-100,000 people and the provincial cities. It dropped less (10-14 per cent) in large towns (over 100,000 people) and in London. In rural areas, walk trips increased slightly.

  In consequence there is now no relationship between the proportion of walk trips and settlement size. Some large urban areas have near-rural levels of pedestrian trips (West Midlands being an example).

Table 2

CHANGE IN WALK/BIKE TRIPS 1985-86 TO 1995-96

London
11 per cent drop
Metropolitan areas
16 per cent drop
Other urban areas:
   
    over 250k
14 per cent drop
    100>250k
10 per cent drop
    25>100k
20 per cent drop
    3>25k
17 per cent drop
Rural areas
4 per cent rise


  Walk trips to work declined by 35 per cent in the 10 years 1986-96 and educational walk trips dropped by 26 per cent. Shopping trips are down by 17 per cent and leisure by 9 per cent.

Table 3

"HOT SPOTS" OF DECLINE IN WALK/BIKE TRIPS

  
1985-86 Trips per person a year
1994-96 Trips per person a year
% change
Work
37
24
-35
During work
4
4
0
Education
46
34
-26
Escort to Education
18
24
+33
Leisure
124
113
-9
Shopping
92
76
-17
Other personal
53
45
-15
Total
374
320
-14


  Source: National Travel Survey 1994-96.

3.  WALKING AND TRANSPORT POLICY

  A surprisingly small proportion of current walkable trips are undertaken by car. 11 per cent of journeys under one mile are undertaken as a car/van driver and a further 7 per cent as a passenger. Education escort trips appear to be an important element of the shorter car trips. Research by Black, (1997) found that 84 per cent of parents driving pupils to infant schools said they could undertake the trip on foot.

Table 4

WALK'S SHARE OF SHORT TRIPS, 1985-86 AND 1997-99


  
1985-86
1997-99

Walk
83%
80%
Car
12%
18%
Other
5%
2%


  Source: National Travel Survey 1985-86 and 1997-99.

4.  STRATEGIES TO INCREASE WALKING

  Although local physical problems of walking are important (eg in What's Wrong with Walking, in Northern Ireland 74 per cent of people said they had problems of walking due to traffic, poor or badly designed paths, etc) the root cause of the decline in walking is not that a lot of short trips are shifting to car, but that fewer short trips are made. There are simply less trips within walkable distances.

PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF JOURNEY LENGTHS, 1978-79 TO 1997-99

  
Under 1 mile
1<2
2<5
5<10
10<25
25<50
50<100
100 miles and over
Total
Total (n)
1978-79
33.0
20.0
25.0
12.0
7.0
2.0
0.9
0.3
100.0
1,097
1985-86
32.7
18.3
24.4
13.0
8.2
2.1
0.9
0.4
100.0
1,024
1989-91
29.2
17.9
25.6
13.8
9.3
2.6
1.1
0.5
100.0
1,091
1991-93
29.0
17.3
25.4
14.3
9.6
2.6
1.1
0.6
100.0
1,057
1994-96
28.7
16.6
25.7
14.7
9.9
2.7
1.1
0.6
100.0
1,057
1997-99
26.8
17.4
25.4
14.8
10.8
2.9
1.1
0.7
100.0
1,052


  Source: National Travel Surveys.

  Factors leading to a general lengthening of trips are the major cause of walking's decline. For example, the walk trip to local shops is being replaced by a four mile car trip to the city-edge megastore; the walk trip to a local school is substituted by a five mile ferrying by parents to another school as all the local places were taken up by other parents ferrying their children to the local school. The core factors causing the decline of walk trips needs to be addressed at this strategic transport policy level as well as providing local specific measures to ensure the walking environment is attractive for short trips.

  If one-third of all trips within walkable distance continue to be replaced by longer car trips there is massive potential for further traffic generation. Stemming trip lengthening and moving to reduce trip lengths is vital.

  The effect of increasing trip lengths was a key neglected factor in the Transport Policy White Paper, which placed emphasis on modal switch. Without addressing the trip lengthening problem, walk trips will continue to decline; furthermore, any environmental and congestion-reducing benefits of modal switch will simply be swallowed up within general traffic growth.

  Realising the potential of walking requires addressing both "sufficient" factors (largely the local physical provision of a good walking environment) and "necessary" factors (structural transport, land use and social aspects). Although improving the local walking environment could win back some motorised trips from more distant locations, this is only part of making walking a more viable option.

  To date, policy for walking tends to place emphasis on local physical provision. This includes the consideration of walking in the Transport White Paper. Once structural "necessary" factors are considered, the nature of walking policy changes significantly. Walking needs to become a key part of land use policies and economic measures to reduce transport's environmental impacts.

REFERENCES

  Black, Colin (1997): Psycho-social Obstacles to Behaviour Modification: the Journey to School. Universities Transport Studies Group Conference Papers, vol 3.

  Potter, Stephen (1995): The passenger trip length "surge". Transport Planning Systems, Vol 3 No 1,pp 7-15.

  Potter, Stephen (1997) Vital Travel Statistics, Landor, London.

  Noble, Barbara and Potter, Stephen (1998): Travel patterns and journey purpose, Transport Trends, pp 3-14, The Stationery Office.

  DETR (1998): Transport Statistics Report: National Travel Survey 1994-96. The Stationery Office.

  DETR (2000): Transport Statistics Bulletin: National Travel Survey 1997-99, Transport Statistics, DETR.

Stephen Potter

Director
Centre for Technology Strategy
Faculty of Technology
The Open University


 
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