Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Owen Ephraim Esq (WTC 39)


  Walking may well be a good thing for one's health, awareness of one's habitat and as a means of meeting people, but it is not seen as a chic, go-go or glamorous thing to do, particularly in town. The very word "pedestrian" is used to describe a dowdy, tortoise like and unexciting progress made in any sphere.

  To improve the image of walking we must provide serious facilities for walkers. Frequent and convenient seats and arbours for the less able and others to rest, frequent and completely safe "stepless" crossing points, good lighting of pavements, smooth pavements which are litter free, easy gradients and attractive views wherever possible are essential. It must be made absolutely clear to drivers that the pedestrian has at least equal rights to movement and that the facilities are designed, rather than provided as an afterthought.

  Walking, even if accepted as a "good thing" from several points of view, must nevertheless be made into an attractive alternative to other ways of both movement and passing one's time if it is to contribute to healthy living. Greater separation between moving cars and pedestrians is essential. Pavement barriers should be provided on all roads where speeds may exceed 20 miles per hour. Pedestrian crossing points on minor roads should be specified and at frequent intervals with all vehicles halted for short periods along the whole road. See drawing for example of possible layouts etc.

  Many factors have developed over the years to reduce the convenience of both day to day walking and recreational walking. Local shops are less available and the range of goods is not as great as larger shops so shopping tends to be a less frequent and more distant activity. Public transport is not adequate if goods have to be carried more than a few yards, and I disagree with the idea that a 200 metre walk is acceptable for bus passengers as it excludes the infirm and those carrying goods, particularly food. Nevertheless, public transport does allow the journey from home to the shops to be walked. But the return fare is an inducement to use the bus both into and out of town.

  Recreational walking in towns is limited to "heritage tours" of one sort or another, though areas in the vicinity of town centres can be made attractive for short walks if rivers, lakes or open spaces are present. Walkers can in theory, still use the bus and train to get to and from their start and finish points but the car usually provides a better alternative. Often two cars are used for a party of walkers, one car to get to the start point and the other to return from the end point. Pollution and intrusion is inevitable.

  The private car of course must be used both ways and provides "door to door" transit of goods. Once the choice is made to use a car, other choices, such as walking, are removed.


  As a means of fast, private and immediate travel walking does not compare to the attraction of the car. The car allows privacy for the single or a group of travellers. The car's perceived cost is low and the actual money costs is affordable for many.

  The costs in terms of pollution, global warming, damage to the environment, injury and death are difficult to perceive individually and too abstruse to overcome the peer pressure. Car design, advertising, television programs, films, comment and one up-manship all succeed in making cars attractive to all ages. These factors adroitly distance us from the death, injury and grief caused daily on our roads.

  An equivalent effort must be made to improve the image of walking. We must not depend on exhortation, fear and increased awareness of the real costs of motoring. The cost to the individual must also be highlighted in terms of physical damage caused by long periods of sitting still, often in stressful situations. Only recently have we become aware of the damage caused by air travel with similar lack of movement, stress etc.

  Bus companies are slowly becoming aware that they have failed to compete with the private car over many years and are pressed to improve the image and convenience of the bus. Even bus travel, despised as it is by the motorist, is faster than walking, is fairly secure and gives some protection from rain. But the need for considerable knowledge of times, routes and fares without recourse to a printed document presents a major barrier to bus travel other than for frequent and repetitive journeys.


  At present, bus travel outside London is seen as the method of last resort. Its image must be greatly improved by moving to more spacious and more user friendly operation, despite the increased cost. Conventional buses must form part of a spectrum of public transport which includes taxis, "door to door" shared vehicles, "door to bus", "door to train" and "door to park and ride" feeder services to and from coaches and trains. Transfers between modes must be easy and convenient with 24 hour operation and assistance with luggage and information.

  A key issue is the provision of a public transport system that is as good as the private car, attractive to use and offers facilities not available to the car user. That means an alternative which operates at all times of each day and is available within a few minutes of the need to travel arising. It must also be as or more convenient, have a lower perceived cost, carry luggage and offer safe "door to door" travel. It should have information and ticket sales for other modes of transport which can be bought while en route.

  A major benefit to the pedestrian is that good public transport allows one or more "legs" of a journey to be walked in the knowledge that if the weather, tiredness, lateness or heavy baggage makes it necessary to return, public transport is easily and quickly available from any point. With "dial a ride" there would be no need to know where the bus stop is, if it is sheltered, have a timetable, know the route—just a call would suffice from a mobile phone or call box. Longer journeys would entail transfers to other modes perhaps, but this need not be the problem it currently presents.


  Clearly we should increase the perceived money cost of travelling by car and explain that the costs as outlined above are not being met at present. For example, reduce car licensing to a minimal £20 per annum, add to the basic petrol price an insurance levy of £0.30 per litre, a pollution levy of £0.50 per litre, a police levy of £0.10 per litre and a highway maintenance and improvement levy of £0.40 per litre. A gallon of fuel will then cost £6.20 or so which will be a real incentive to improve engine performance and will provide the public money needed to improve both pedestrian and public transport facilities. This would mean that the first, 4,000 miles per annum would cost no more than at present.

  Speed sensitive obstructions should replace humps and other traffic calming measures which affect those abiding by speed limits as much as those who exceed the speed limits. These devices could be set and changed at any time to any speed, making them equally useful on urban roads or motorways. Each lane of a motorway could for example have a different speed limit. Weight sensitive sensors could be installed such that an obstruction such as an 18x post is lowered only if and when a moving car is detected a short distance before the obstruction. Any speed above walking pace would lead to a collision with the post which would not yet have lowered to ground level.

  All powered road vehicles should have a visual and audible display which would indicate if they are exceeding the speed limit applied in the locality in which they are travelling at any time.

  Any conviction for dangerous or careless driving of any sort should result in the automatic loss of ones licence for a period which reflects the seriousness of the offence. Accidents arising from such driving should cause these penalties to be doubled. Given the improved public transport which I outline above, loss of licence would not prevent continued mobility.


  The amount spent on providing pedestrian friendly features will certainly require an increase in the budgets for these matters but increased costs for the motorist should cover some of this as well as improving public transport.

  We must aim considerable higher than at present and plan any new developments to take these matters into account.


  Only by providing and publishing a nationwide objective can planners, architects and developers be expected to take an initiative on the scale required. The strategy would need to allow experimentation but would clearly specify the precedence, relative to road transport, of public transport, pedestrians and cyclists in accessing funds and land resources.


  I am and have been a motorist for many years, I walk frequently to the nearby shops and library and occasionally I cycle into the town centre along a cycle way which covers 50 per cent of the journey. I was a district councillor and have been involved with improvements to road movements, public transport, dial a ride, road crossings and traffic calming with a degree of success.

  All the technical points made in this response are readily achieved with present day technology and if done on a national scale, the unit cost would be readily affordable.

December 2000

  A view of the kind of development thinking required to separate pedestrians from traffic.

  Though shown as rectangular, the shapes may be varied of course as may the road curves. Crossings at Car Ways would be controlled by pedestrian controlled lights. By separating and giving precedence to Northbound and Southbound traffic from West and Eastbound respectively, road junctions are simpler with cars always approaching each other from one direction only. The number of houses per "estate" (here shown as eight houses) can be changed as can the number of Footpaths and Car Ways per Estate. (looks American Grid!)

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