Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by Angela J Thomson (WTC 63)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

THE CONTRIBUTION OF WALKING TO THE URBAN RENAISSANCE

  By having more areas especially of the inner cities accessible mainly by foot rather than by motor vehicles such as walkways next to rivers and canals similar to the Netherlands.

  Making streets more attractive by planting and maintaining appropriate trees and shrubs which will give great pleasure to the pedestrian and other road users.

  An area which is clean and tidy will be more likely to stay that way. No one likes walking through litter strewn streets with broken paving slabs ready to trip up the unwary.

  In winter pavements should be gritted as well as roads so that pedestrians can walk safety.

HEALTHY LIVING

  Walking regularly does contribute to better health. I did suffer from diverticulitis and now rarely get it as I try to walk at least one mile a day, often much more. If I do not do any walking for a few days it usually returns. Despite arthritis in both feet I enjoy walking most of the time but especially away from motorists and cyclists.

CAR DEPENDENCE REDUCTION

  Walking is quite reasonable for journeys of two miles or less as the journey can be fairly accurately timed which is not true of journeys by any other mode.

  Perhaps instead of car allowances, employers could provide allowances for wet weather clothing!

REASONS FOR THE DECLINE IN WALKING

  Apart from the availability of personal transport such as motor cars, lack of time is a major reason for the decline in walking. Noise, pollution and danger from both motor vehicles and pedal cyclists are other reasons.

MAIN OBSTACLES TO ENCOURAGING WALKING AND INCREASING NUMBER OF JOURNEYS BY FOOT

  Walking is regarded as unimportant by planners at all levels and by the police. Many pedestrians are put off walking because cyclists have taken over the pavements and footpaths. Locally a young girl received serious head injuries as a result of being knocked down by a cyclist riding on the pavement and other serious injuries have been reported via the letters pages in local newspapers. Police seem to regard the offence of cycling on pavements as trivial and I have asked Essex Police for statistics of arrests but I have received none to date.

  Another reason is the lack of road signs for walkers to say the railway station but motor vehicle drivers get plenty of signs usually taking up pavement space.

  Many pedestrian crossings are placed so as the pedestrian cannot take the most direct route. The timing of crossings are usually too short even for the young and able bodied to cross at a normal walking pace.

  At night pavements are often poorly lit with street lights shining onto the roads while being located on the pavements.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO PROMOTE WALKING

  Pedestrianisation usually encourages more shoppers—a recent suggestion by a Chelmsford Borough Council Councillor to allow cycling in the pedestrianised High Street led to protests by the Chamber of Commerce and letters against the idea in the newpapers.

  Would Home Zones encourage more walking by those wedded to the motor car?

  Road humps and chicanes while they will slow vehicles are unpopular and uncomfortable for bus passengers. 20 mile an hour zones adequately policed may make a difference—having vehicles designed to travel well at low speeds would be even better.

  The lack of road signs for pedestrians to railway stations has already been mentioned. Often there is a lack of signs to other places as well such as Tourist Information Offices, bus stations, local goverment offices, places of entertainment, shopping centres and hospitals. Where signs exist sometimes they point in the wrong direction as they are too easy for vandals to twist round.

  The arrest of cyclists for cycling on the pavement and harassing pedestrians by shouting, swearing and even spitting at them for daring to not get out of their way would do much to restore confidence.

  At night most pedestrians feel safer walking beside a busy main road than a quiet poorly lit alley.

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

  Some places such as Zermatt, Switzerland and Sark, Channel Islands sell themselves as traffic free to tourists though neither example is completely free of vehicles.

  Perhaps there could be new towns built where private cars are not allowed and public transport is within a mile of every building so that the inhabitants would need to walk to get anywhere.

HAVE THE RELEVANT PROFESSIONALS GOT THE APPROPRIATE SKILLS AND TRAINING

  It appears that very few planners or police walk anywhere! There is a prevailing culture that anyone on wheels including skateboarders and wheelchair users are better than anyone who uses their feet.

  It would need not just the education of new recruits to these professionals but the re-education of existing members of staff. Anyone planning a new pavement or footpath should be made to walk the proposed route before it is set in concrete.

  The police need to take the concerns of pedestrians seriously especially as regards arresting cyclists and making sure they are named in the local press.

ARE GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS, THEIR AGENCIES AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES TAKING APPROPRIATE MEASURES TO ENCOURAGE WALKING

  In the past, walking seems to have been virtually ignored despite the claim in "Encouraging Walking" that "walking accounts for more than 25 per cent of all journeys and for some 80 per cent of journeys less than one mile". The advice in "Encouraging Walking" is sound but there seems to be no statutory obligation to provide better facilities for pedestrians—perhaps there should be.

  The draft of Chelmsford Borough Council's "Transportation Strategy" devoted two paragraphs out of 40 pages to walking—that is not enough.

MORE PRIORITY FOR WALKING

  There is a need for local authorities to create new walking routes. There should be a standard size of pavement so that two can walk side by side or pass one another. Street furniture should not be on the pavement if it is not relevant to pedestrians.

  All urban roads should have pavements on both sides. Pavements should be maintained and repaired regularly. Those erecting scaffolding to build or repair buildings must create a temporary path to allow pedestrians to continue their journey. Having a notice saying "pedestrians cross here" on a busy road with no crossing place in the vicinity is not acceptable.

  Walking does seem to be the cinderella of travelling modes possibly as it is perceived to be done solely by the poor, the elderly and the unwaged and therefore not meriting spending public money on.

SHOULD NATIONAL TARGETS BE SET AND A NATIONAL STRATEGY PUBLISHED

  Perhaps a league table of the most pedestrian friendly local authorities with some sort of prize would help. If a national strategy is published it needs to be well publicised and well known figures especially top politicians should be seen to walk as an everyday thing not just as an occasional PR stunt.

January 2001


 
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