Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by Henry Law Esq (WTC 26)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

1.  THE CONTRIBUTION OF WALKING TO THE URBAN RENAISSANCE, HEALTHY LIVING AND REDUCING DEPENDENCY ON CARS

  The contribution of walking to the Urban Renaissance should be self-evident. One further point could, however, be added. When people get out of their cars and start walking, social interactions start to take place which are beneficial in themselves, for example, as casual meetings take place in the street, which are precluded when people are boxed-up in motor vehicles. The presence of more people on foot in the street also has a beneficial effect in maintaining good order and a feeling of safety.

2.  THE REASONS FOR THE DECLINE IN WALKING AND THE MAIN OBSTACLES TO ENCOURAGING WALKING AND INCREASING THE NUMBER OF JOURNEYS MADE BY FOOT

  The main reasons for the decline in walking are cultural, but practical measures that increase the attractiveness of walking will help to change a widespread perception that walking is for losers.

  Many towns are difficult to walk around due to the kind of traffic management measures that have been imposed over the past 30 years. These include, in particular, poorly-sited pedestrian crossings which involve walkers in unnecessary detours, controlled-light crossings with long waiting times for pedestrians and short pedestrian phases, subway and bridge crossings, insufficiently wide footways and the use of footways by cyclists, and for car parking.

  Walking can also be made difficult by factors such as obstruction by refuse, unauthorised use by traders and the poor state of repair of footways.

  Fear of crime is also a deterrent against walking.

  It should always be borne in mind that walking is generally one mode in a journey that may also be made in part by public transport, and to the extent that the quality of the latter continues to decline, walking will also remain unattractive.

3.  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.

  The most important measures would address the issues mentioned in section 2 above. These include:

    —  Provision of conveniently located crossing places situated to suit preferred pedestrian movements.

    —  Adjustment of controlled crossings in favour of pedestrians; in town centres, traffic lights should normally be set in the pedestrian phase, with traffic phase on demand—the opposite way round to current practice.

    —  Pedestrian crossings should be generally improved; in particular, pedestrians should not be made to wait in "cages" on traffic islands in the middle of the road but should be enabled to cross roads in a single stage.

    —  Elimination of subway crossings by surface facilities.

    —  Provision of safe cycling facilities on the highway and strict enforcement of "no cycling on footway" regulations.

    —  Enforcement of parking regulations to prevent parking on footways.

    —  Public transport improvements. More research is needed in this area as recent regulations and changing economic conditions have resulted in public transport vehicles, especially buses, which are unattractive to the travelling public and ill-adapted to the use for which they are intended. Regulations for the construction of buses should make it possible to operate new vehicles which are functionally equivalent to the London Routemaster[4], and the use of conductors should be encouraged, if necessary through employment subsidies.

    —  Well designed tram systems such as the Croydon Tramlink make for an attractive pedestrian environment and provide potentially high quality public transport.

4.  WHAT CAN BE LEARNT FROM GOOD PRACTICE BOTH IN ENGLAND AND ELSEWHERE

  It is likely that best practice is to be found on the Continent, notably in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

5.  WHETHER THE RELEVANT PROFESSIONALS HAVE THE APPROPRIATE SKILLS AND TRAINING

  Qualifications and training of professional staff is of less importance than the prevailing mindset. If traffic planners themselves subscribe to the car culture and are disinclined to walk or use public transport, they will have little understanding of what is required to improve conditions for pedestrians, and little inclination to do anything about their problems.

6.  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

  To some extent, Government Departments are still part of the problem.

    —  Accessibility regulations, for example, are one reason why new buses are almost 50 per cent heavier than the buses of the 1950s, whilst having about the same seating capacity.

    —  Taxation policy, which remains bottom-end loaded. Public transport, because it is labour intensive, is badly affected by this pattern of taxation; this is one reason for the disappearance of, for instance, train cleaners, bus conductors, etc.

January 2001




4   Double-deck buses with a high seating capacity on both upper and lower decks, are not pay-on-entry and occupy a small footprint on the highway. Back


 
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