Memorandum by James Cruickshank Esq (WTC
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
People will not walk much if they cannot take
rests. That was the main thrust of a report issued under the same
title last month to about 25 bodies or departments that deal with
health, exercise, and matters to do with old and disabled people.
It is now a widely accepted statement. Copies of supportive replies
are available if required.
The implications are clear. Walking strategies
will not get off the ground unless resting places are freely available
within residential streets, other built-up areas and local parks.
To date, seating within walking documents has been considered
only in the context of city centres and pedestrianised areas (see
Original Report, point 10). The significance of resting places
at regularly spaced intervals has not previously been addressed.
Without such facilities, the writer is one of
many millions destined to become prematurely isolated at home
within the foreseeable future. Whilst premature loss of independence
will be bad for himhe is 61 and one of the next generation
of the "old"it will also become very costly for
the State, an aspect developed in point 3 below.
Other contributors to the Committee, the writer
understands, will ratify points raised in his Original Report,
a copy of which is attached. If that report is not circulated
to Committee members, they may like to note that a copy is available,
either from the Committee's library or from the writer himself.
(Please bear in mind that a few of the original reports were unwisely
issued under a different title, starting Tactical Defects in
the Implementation of Public Health. . .)
This update will focus on practical issues which
bear on politicians, planners and public alike.
Looking to the future, effective walking strategies
will forever be thwarted if local authorities continue to be expected
to pay for some of the infrastructure without which far-sighted
Health and Transport schemes cannot work. Benches are such items
(Original Report, point 3). However, public toilets and bus shelters
are other items that impinge upon integrated transport ideals
(Original Report, points 8 and 9). Pedestrian infrastructure generally
is already centrally funded via the DETR, the Committee is asked
Returns on investments in infrastructure accrue
to Central Government by way of lower, long-term, public health
and transport costs. Local authorities receive no such return
once it is realised that even the costs of Home Care and Residential
Carethe healthier the elderly, the lower the outlaydo
not come out of local authority budgets. Consequently, adequate
investment in infrastructure will never be made by cash-strapped,
under motivated local authorities. In that event, vital national
Public Health and Transport goals can never be achieved.
Research within St Albans in is the basis for
the Benches as Resting Places reports, whilst the national
requirement for seating has been extrapolated from those findings.
Subject to confirmation elsewhere, three pounds per head is required
if benches were to be sited 400 metres apartan investment
of £200 million nationally and a tiny sum within the wider
context (Original Report, points 4 and 5).
A logical conclusion is that the funding of
resting places, and their replacement due to vandalism and other
factors (point 4 below), must be the responsibility of central
government. Otherwise, walking strategies will fail. People will
not walk much if they cannot take rests.
3. WHAT IS
It tends to remain unsaid that central government's
policy of getting people to walk more is about more than just
improving the quality of life of, particularly, older and disabled
people. One is rather left to work it out for oneself that the
policy will also alleviate a vast liability for taxpayers of the
future through better public health and sensible car usage. That
connection should be spelt out.
Also, there is a tendency to focus attention
on those already frail and to relate benefits to the old. While
all must be done to improve their comforts, it should not be overlooked
that maximum extra years of independent living will most effectively
be achieved targeting people still fit enough to help themselves.
And it should be remembered that the entire population will benefit
from the availability of benches, not least the Socially Excluded
(Original Report, point 7).
A point of no greater importance, however, is
that of demographic trends which show that the pensionable age
group will peak in 2040 when 15.5 million will fall into that
category as against 10.5 million at present. The like-for-like
increase would be greater by 1.7 million if the state pension
age for women were to remain 60. Meanwhile the working population
will remain more or less static.
Looking ahead, though at year 2000 values, the
writer calculates that if just one per cent of the pensionable
population keep healthy and independent for just one extra
year as a result of fitness/health/walking campaigns, savings
in the region of £2 billion ie £2,000 million, would
acrrue to the nation (150,000 x £13,000). What might the
annual abatement of costs be? £30 or £40 or £50
billion? Diet, smoking, alcohol and drugs problems are of course
other components within the wider strategy. Income tax one penny
in the pound raises £2.7 billion for the Chancellor.
The Committee is asked to use its resources
to have the writer's figures checked as part of wider assessment
of all interactive financial considerations.
Although a Government Actuary graph indicates
that the numbers of pensionable age, as against those of working
age, do not start to diverge significantly until 2020, savings
approaching those mentioned above are attainable earlier. One
way or another, it is every generation's responsibility to lay
foundations for the next? The Committee's is asked to consider
It may of course be argued that all additional
public health costs will not fall on the taxpayer. Even now, those
with assets pay for Home and Residential Care. Private pensions
schemes are being encouraged. The pensionable age could perhaps
be increased. However, all that merely camouflages the drain on
national resources. Looked at another way, how many extra medical
and care staff will be required to look after 6.7 million more
elderly and old people? As Britain is a nation of full employment,
who will do the work? How many? Half a million, or a million?
Are housing needs taken into account? This obligation is partly
avertable if the aged were more healthy and independent.
One way or another, the point is made that a
cap-in-hand approach should not be expected for essential infrastructure
that will enable a key component of integrated transport policieswalkingto
function effectively. The capital investment and maintenance of
benches now starts to appear rather trivial, particularly as it
is undisputed that people will not walk much if they cannot take
Indeed the cost of pedestrian infrastructure
generally, better thought of as "essential investment",
can now be looked on as first class value for money. Now that
the potential return from investment in pedestrian infrastructure
is better understood, it is put to the Committee that a greater
amount of Government money should be allocated to itnot
just for resting places and their maintenance, but also for other
items presently expected to be paid for out of local authority
budgets. Are there any other than bus shelters and public toilets?
The words "greater share" are deliberately
avoided. Extra funds are justified, as they are for publicity
campaigns (point 8 below). In fact, if public opinion were ever
to support a direct taxation levy, surely it would be for investment
in schemes set up to counter the inevitable effects of demographic
changes. However, that is a wider issue. Or is it? Certainly,
nothing would better focus public and political attention on a
variety of issues of which walking is but one.
A letter to the writer from a London local authority
stated with regard to the DETR that it "can often get the
capital expenditure approved but no allowance is ever made for
the ongoing revenue costs that arise as a result. It may well
be that it is the latter, dealing with accountants and estimates
of ongoing future liabilities, that will be most difficult."
If the writer's calculations prove correct,
a £200 million investment in additional resting places will
equate to half a million or so new benches set 400 metres apart.
Many will be wrecked by vandals, a point recognised in the Original
Report at Appendix II. Vandalism is a big problem these days,
the Committee need not be told. Perhaps it always will be, but
hopefully not, as the value of resting places becomes understood
via public information programmes.
What is not in doubt is that local authority
budgets are not geared to pay for large replacement costs. As
matters stand, offers of free seating from DETR would not be welcome
by local authorities if they were also accepting the onus of maintenance.
If accepted, they could not be repaired or replaced for budgetary
reasons. Consequently, the usable bench stock would quickly decline.
Even one missing or unusable resting place would create a no-go
area for the more frail amongst us. As soon as someone becomes
confined to home, state costs start to clock up.
In other words, it would be futile if central
government were to agree to instal resting places throughout communities
without also paying for maintenance and replacement.
To make a point, the writer now asserts that
even if every bench in the country were to be wrecked by vandals
two or three times a year, DETR's annual support liability for
total replacement would still be insignificant within the wider
scheme of things. More realistically the cost is unlikely to exceed
£50 million annually once the full installation programme
is in place (see Original Report, Appendix II for the basis of
this loose calculation). Vandalism itself will justify a programme
of public information. Ensuing public opinion may defeat vandalism,
of benches at least. If not, the only realistic option for central
government will be to keep forking out as . . . "people will
not walk much if they cannot take rests."
5. THE WAY
With one qualification, the writer continues
to see the way as in point 11 of his Original Report, repeated
The idea is advanced here that every street is
potentially part of a walking network and that placement of benches
throughout residential streets and other built-up areas will spontaneously
generate an unlimited number of "pedestrian flows":
or seatways. Relatively little planning effort would be
It seems not to have been realised that an unlimited
number of "trunk" pedestrian routes [a concept put to
local authorities] would be needed too if its concept were to
be developed. City centres, schools and shops are cited as examples
of route destinations. But what about hospitals, doctors' surgeries,
kiddies' play schools, pubs, parks, friends' houses, railway stations,
bus stops and an endless list of other destinations that have
to be approached from any direction?
Generally "trunk" walkways are difficult
to identify although routes that do lend themselves naturally
to the concept should be developed. Other than for those the idea
is quixotic in planning terms and would concentrate resources
in a small number of grand schemes at the expense of large swathes
of the community where basic walking facilities would long remain
There is a compelling case for starting from
grass roots upwards by putting resting places in situ quickly,
say over a period of three to five years. With that fundamental
infrastructure in place across entire communities, people could
select their own preferred walkways to greater health. In turn
that would help planners. It is a straightforward concept that
is easy to relate to, easy to plan, and easy to implement after
guidelines are in the hands of tactically aware Local Authorities.
Its sub-structure, not much different from that of "trunk"
walkways, could be built contemporaneously, or as demand or resources
permit: kerb lowering, pavement widening, tactile slabs, traffic
calming, friendlier traffic lights, landscaping, pedestrianised
or pedestrian-priority streets, etc.
While the whole community would be able to benefit
from such a sweeping improvement to the pedestrian environment,
the greatest advantage may go to disabled people and to the elderly,
by way of extra years of independent living: a fine return
on investment, not just for the dignity of the individual,
but for the nation's long-term finances.
The statement that other items of pedestrian
infrastructure are but sub-structures to the "bench as a
resting place" is perhaps unnecessarily contentious or antagonistic.
As long as there are no Zero Resting Places within the forseeable
future, the writer is not bothered about how that is accomplished.
Of course, negative thinking, if any remains, must be expelled:
1. Vandalism: This popular stumbling
block was understandable before viewed in different perspective,
as in point 4 above.
2. Seats on pavements: In the past,
seating has been classified as "Street Furniture", a
misnomer for obstacles, of which there are many.
Seats on pavements are essential if no-go Zero
Resting Zones are to be avoided. Any that might obstruct the poor
of sight could be denoted in some way, perhaps by some form of
tactile slab? A ban on seating would disadvantage the already
disadvantaged. Generally there are plenty of suitable sites or
these can be created from ongoing pavement widening schemes. An
occasional parking space could be commandeered. (Original Report,
Appendix I"Location of benches").
3. Seats outside people's premises:
An unavoidable issue. Advance national and local public information
campaigns and local consultation are vital here. For example,
a St Albans objector quickly changed her mind when it was pointed
out that the wellbeing of old and disabled people would be at
stake. Also, the problem of drink and drug users has to be addressed,
constructively. They are actually small in number, but high in
profile, congregating as they do in town centres and at the likes
of King's Cross. They are of unnecessary worry in other areas.
4. The argument that the statement, "people
will not walk much if they cannot take rests", is untested
and subjective: Consequently, it goes, seats cannot be placed
on pavements, a throw-back to when the relevance of seating was
not understood and categorised as one of many pedestrian obstaclessee
In fact, the statement will always be un-testable
since a programme of bench installation cannot be attempted without
prior and ongoing national publicity (see 8 below). A near-consensus
of commonsense is good enough for the writer.
The possible regenerative effect of pedestrianisation
of devitalised areas was not considered as such in his Original
Report. Now, however, the writer can find no better way of summing
up his views than by quoting from the DETR's Encouraging walking:
guidelines to local authorities:
"1.3 We want to revitalise our communities.
With a better environment for walking, residential areas will
be safer, better places for us all. There will be more room for
children to play safely and the pavement can become a place to
meet as well as a place to walk. Likewise town centres and shopping
areas can become more attractive places. Re-focusing our efforts
on meeting the needs of people is a necessary step towards renewing
urban areas. Larger numbers of people regularly walking in an
area can help to deter crime and vandalism. Improving the walking
environment can help to foster the sense of community and concern
for other people that is important in a better society."
6. TOOLS OF
Now that the "bench as a resting place"
is recognised as a front-line tool of pedestrian infrastructure,
a fresh approach towards planning and implementation is to be
expected. It so happens that resting places lend themselves to
a rudimentary set of definitions that will simplify planning at
local authority level whilst allowing the DETR to monitor progress
and costs centrally. Further, members of the public will be able
to see from street maps the state of infrastructure development,
a factor of interest to them not just as pedestrians but as taxpayers
wanting to ensure that walking strategies are being satisfactorily
1. The Standard Resting Place Distance (SRPD):
Before planning of any sort can be started,
the standard distance between benches must be set. Costings within
the Original Report were based on a quarter of a mile or 400 metres,
as that seemed a reasonable balance between effectiveness and
cost (see Original Report, points 4 and 5).
Once the SRPD is established, all discussions,
guidelines, directives and understanding can be related to that.
For example, resting places will have to be positioned closer
together in some locations: in the proximity of bus routes, on
hills, close to old people's homes, between car parks and shops,
between car parks and the centre of parks, and near local shops
perhaps, etc. If the Standard Resting Place Distance (SRPD) were
to be set at 400 metres, these bench locations could be referred
to in terms of SRPD x .5, or 200 metres, or as SRPD x .25 which
is 100 metresan added advantage being that such data lends
itself to notation on street maps for planning, control and public
Sadly an SRPD of 400 metres is too great for
some, as statistical evidence by Help The Aged and the Mobility
and Inclusion Unit at the DETR discloses. However, these people
can be identified and provided with special support and transport
of the type already in use (everywhere?) if bus stops cannot be
made accessible to them.
The Committee is asked to approve in principle
the concept of the Standard Resting Place Distance. The actual
SRPD can be decided after consultation. The object will be defeated
if resting places are spaced too far apart. Yet they cannot be
placed every few feet.
2. SeatWay Zones (SWZ).
A SeatWay Zone is an area where resting places
have been installed to in compliance with the Standard Resting
Place Distance (SRPD).
Where all other items of pedestrian infrastructure
are not in place on a SeatWay, this would somehow be marked on
a map, even on the route itself perhaps. Marked areas would in
effect be no-go zones for those with special needs, such as wheel-chair
users if lowered kerbs are not in place, or the frail or the very
slow or those poor of sight if friendly traffic lights at suitably
narrowed roads are lacking, for example.
The term "SeatWay" does not imply
a formal route, but is merely a location sufficiently close to
another resting place within the concept of the Standard Resting
Place Distance (SRPD).
3. Zero Resting Zones (ZRZ):
A Zero Resting Zone is an area or street where
resting places are not in place according to the nationally agreed
SRPD (Standard Resting Place Distance). Accordingly, it is a no-go
area for those who cannot walk far without taking a rest, say
400 metres if the SRPD is set at that.
Seatway Zones (SWZ) and Zero Resting Zones (ZRZ)
also lend themselves to monitoring by way of league tables for
the benefit of planners, the DETR and the general public, all
of whom will have their own vested interests.
To whom should the above proposals be channelled
7. LOCAL TRANSPORT
Several replies have informed the writer that
investment in benches can be recovered by local authorities via
Local Transport Plans. Maybe so, but as matters stand local authorities
have never heard of the concept of benches as resting places within
residential and other built-up areas, let alone the idea that
central funds would be available for replacement and repair costs.
From whom and howin specific termswill
local authorities find out about the concept of "benches
as resting places": for discussions with residents at planning
stage after local and national publicity, of the acquisition,
design and maintenance of benches, and of how tactical angles
and financial considerations should be woven into Local Transport
Plans, etc? A key issue.
The DETR should handle this. And will that be
in the form of guidelines or instructions (after explanation,
discussion and consensus with representatives of local authorities)?
A non-prescriptive approach is currently in use. However, that
becomes a wobbly policy now that the long-term implications of
failure of walking/health strategies are more specifically understood.
In particular, the costs of supporting the unhealthy population
of ineffectual local authorities that under-invest in pedestrian
infrastructure will have to be subsidised by taxpayers elsewhere.
The writer is not generally in favour of prescriptive
central involvement. However, if the DETR is to pay not just for
the initial investment in resting places but also for their maintenance
and replacementas it must doa change of approach
may be inevitable, controlled as in point 6.
The Committee is asked to identify how the different
types of local authorities come under the umbrella of Local Transport
Plans, at least as far as "benches as resting places"
are concerned. For example, London has an added degree of autonomy
and its Mayor's Plan? Large cities perhaps also deal directly
with Whitehall, whereas some or all of the affairs of District
Councils such as here in St Albans, are handled via County Councils.
At the bottom end of the scale, even the role of parish councils
has to be understood as they also install benches, traditionally
regarded as leisure items.
Devolved responsibilities in Scotland and Wales
may be an added complication depending on their budgetary relationships
with Westminster. (The original report is already in the hands
of the Scottish Minister of Transport via Age Concern Scotland,
the writer understands.)
8. PUBLIC INFORMATION
At present, it strikes the writer from the gentle
reactions he knows and meets, the public thinks of walking as
a rather cranky activitymaybe not a bad idea, but not really
for them. Poor bus and train services are their let-out. Also,
they have no inkling that walking is part of an integrated transport
strategy, itself unheard of or no more than the vaguest of concepts
to all but a fewif the writer's level of knowledge until
a few months ago is anything to go by.
It would also be a step forward if the public
were allowed to understand what is currently being done to identify
other items of pedestrian infrastructure, or realise that at least
part of the digging up of the streets is done with an overall
plan in mind?
Nor do people seriously associate good health
with walking, the writer suspects. Of course, excellent grass-roots
initiatives have started recently with Walking to Health
and, separately, via the Health Promotion Units of Health Authorities
(Original Report, point 2).
Is that currently the full extent of advertising
to the general public? The writer has come across none other than
that, information that he uncovered as part of his research as
he sought to reassure himself, and others such as MPs, that walking
really is a serious issue (Original Report, points 2 and 10).
The Committee is asked to enquire about the resources available
for publicity on walking.
If calculations of the potentially huge savings
to the state are ratified (see point 3 above), public information
campaigns on walking, and on walking versus car usage, need no
longer be done on the cheap. But first, there must be a cohesive
plan. Then television and radio can be called into play, but only
in tandem with a grass-roots approach. The importance of targeting
children is already recognised, partly because it is accepted
that it will be several years before people's attitudes are likely
to change. Another angle has a neat ring to it: that more sensible
car usage actually benefits owners' health as well as traffic
flow. In effect, investment in public information programmes on
walking/health/car matters is set to be never ending.
Once the links between demographic graphs, potential
taxation levels and their own ageing bodies are understood, everybody
will have a vested interest in the success of walking/health strategies.
Here there are several publicity angles, of which benefits to
the taxpayer of the future must never be far from the front line
(see 3 above).
For a matter of national importancea
promotional concept itselfone imagines that central government
could get free advertising. Press coverage is an example, and
as we are talking about a plan over several decades, TV license
agreements could be modified. Free promotion via the BBC?
More prosaically, bench installation at regular
intervals according to the main thrust of this report could not
be attempted without widescale public awareness and a degree of
enthusiastic consent. That in fact could be the culmination of
the first major public information campaign.
It strikes the writer that there is a need for
some form of central co-ordination on walking matter, not just
for advertising and promotion, but more generally. In turn that
would demand co-ordination with the wider issue of the demographic
trends, a subject demanding its own major programme of public
information that wouldas it happensfurther encourage
walking and greater use of public transport. Another neat circle.