Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Peter Waite Esq (WTC 50)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

  The Association of Consulting Engineers (ACE) has suggested that Members may wish to comment on the following areas:

    —  Engineering in towns in relation to pedestrians

    —  Pavement maintenance

    —  Street furniture

    —  Problems encountered by people with disabilities and people with children

    —  The need to balance pedestrian safety with ease of use and access

    —  Obstructions to pedestrians; ie: unauthorised use of pavement by cars etc.

  This paper addresses the topics recommended by ACE and covers items 2,3,4 and 5. The author is a safety and environment professional and has recently prepared reports for the Ladbroke Grove Rail Inquiry Secretariat and given expert evidence to that Inquiry as well as advising major companies on Safety Issues.

INTRODUCTION

  There appears to be widespread acceptance that the Government should be encouraging the use of Public Transport and encouraging everyone to place less reliance on the use of private cars. One of the main reasons that motorists prefer to use their own cars for commuting and other journeys is that their car provides them with their own personal space, secure, climate controlled and insulated from most of the unpleasant effects of having to fit in with the requirements and habits of others. In contrast pedestrians suffer from the opposite of all these benefits, and no matter how sophisticated public transport becomes we will still have to be pedestrians for a short time to reach appropriate pick-up points. (Most motorists will also need to be pedestrians at some time but they often go to extreme measures, see below, to minimise the distance and duration of any extra-vehicular activity).

  Therefore there is a need to encourage a safe, pleasant environment to move around without the sense of security and comfort provided by the car.

  There are many factors which discourage walking in towns and cities, I have selected two categories with several examples in each to demonstrate how improvements may be made:

1.  Environmental Factors. Walking in the city is often unpleasant because:

    (a)  Wind and rain, particularly spray from the wheels of fast moving vehicles close to footpaths.

    (b)  The need to cross increasingly busy roads.

    (c)  Pollution, particularly from road vehicles.

    (d)  Fears for personal safety, both in crowds and in isolated spaces.

2.  Interactions. Pedestrians are affected by the actions of others who intrude on their space:

    (a)  Crowds in the busiest parts of towns and cities which can slow progress.

    (b)  Motor vehicles driving on/obstructing the footpath (illegal in most cities but not enforced).

    (c)  Cyclists riding on the footpath.

    (d)  Motor vehicles obstructing pedestrian crossings in heavy traffic, or threatening people crossing by edging forward in anticipation of light change.

    (e)  Frequent passing red lights on pedestrian crossing (cycles and motor vehicles).

  The rest of this paper addresses the relevant issues against headings indicating how the situation may be improved.

ENGINEERING

  Pedestrians could be given higher levels of security, convenience and comfort by inclusion of various design measures to promote their interests. A number are listed below for consideration:

  1.  High curbs to prevent encroachment by road vehicles and lessen the effects of spray; where curbs are lowered for pram/wheelchair access ensure this is not an invitation for vehicles to drive on to pavement by suitable bollards/width restrictions.

  2.  Giving the roadway a sloped surface (traditional camber) and good drainage, or use of surfaces with less water retention could also reduce spray (with benefits to road safety by reduction in skidding potential).

  3.  Where grade separated crossings are used or being considered then the designers should ensure that pedestrians have the least severe gradients. Over bridges and subways are often inconvenient and the latter threatening.

  4.  Consider pedestrians when designing new buildings and encourage the use of colonnades or other architectural devices to improve the pedestrians environment, providing shelter from the wind and rain but not total enclosure.

  5.  Separate cycle paths from footpaths where possible.

  6.  The phasing of lights at road junctions should suit the convenience and safety of pedestrians—not road traffic; eg avoid large numbers of people waiting on a central reservation; ensure red lights immediately adjacent to the pedestrian crossing point not just on the far side of a junction. (Cf Islington High St/Upper Street/Liverpool Road Junction).

  7.  In town and city centres consider having narrow roadways with loading/unloading bays as appropriate coupled with complex one way systems cf Oxford and Brugge (Belgium) to ensure no through traffic. Provide car parks at the edge of town.

PAVEMENT MAINTENANCE

  The prime need in towns and cities is to provide and maintain a flat surface with no trip hazards and in order to ensure this measures should be taken to avoid vehicles, even those associated with maintenance, parking on surfaces unsuited to heavy traffic. Vehicles can also deposit oils and other debris on the footway which can be slippery and unpleasant.

  A major source of problems is activity associated with services because the surface is not always re-instated to the original standard, or may be re-laid temporarily whilst settlement occurs. Services should be installed beneath roadways rather than footpaths, or service ducts should be provided for all services and with adequate, engineered access points.

  Maintenance of a level and clean footpath surface should be given at least the same priority as road surfaces. Where damage has occurred due to road vehicles then maintenance funds from road budgets should be used to re-instate the surface and provide protection against future encroachment.

STREET FURNITURE

  Obstructions to the footway should be avoided. Signs, light supports, telephone and post boxes should not obstruct the pavement, particularly signs for road traffic. If large signs are necessary then put supports at extreme edges of the footway, never in the middle.

DISABLED AND CHILDREN

  The layout of footpaths should pay particular attention to ease of use by blind persons, wheelchair users and those with prams or pushchairs. Street furniture can be a source of obstruction to all of these users and a particular danger to blind people.

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY V EASE OF ACCESS

  Many pedestrian schemes are confusing if they allow access by motor vehicles for loading or unloading. Where alternative access cannot be arranged then the use of severe speed limits 5 mph (close to walking speed) and restricted times of access should be considered. An alternative is to have a narrow, single lane for road vehicles in the centre of streets with loading/unloading bays as necessary for essential vehicles. This would also allow for safe access by emergency vehicles.

  Many streets in our towns and cities have old residential properties designed before the universal use of private cars. Front gardens are often converted to car parks or cars are parked on pavements. There should be no parking on forecourts of commercial premises which involves vehicles crossing a footway. If the owners or occupiers want such a facility for their staff or customers then the footway should be moved next to the building and the parking areas next to the road to avoid the conflicting use of the footpath. (In many cases the forecourt areas become inadequate for the demand created and the overflow parking obstructs pedestrians.

OBSTRUCTIONS

  Fixed obstructions by signs and other street furniture should be removed, as they require replacement.

  There should be clear national penalties for parking/driving/cycling on footpaths, with removal of vehicles causing an obstruction in the same way as for other parking offences.

  Penalties should take account of the damage to the surface and damage to existing services, particularly old water and gas mains. Note that traffic over gas mains laid in pavements has resulted in gas leaks, leading to explosions with deaths and injuries.

  Utilities and contractors occupying footpaths, as part of street-works should be charged a rental for the space occupied based upon the use of the footpath and so the disruption they cause.

  A dangerous area of conflict exists at light controlled pedestrian crossings. There should be regulation on, or enforcement of, a prohibition of obstruction of crossings by stationary traffic.

SYSTEMATIC APPROACH TO SAFETY

  All new road and building schemes in towns and cities should be evaluated in terms of how they improve the safety and environment for pedestrians; particularly any schemes designed to improve traffic flow. A Standard approach should be developed with specific issues to address such as:

    —  Will pedestrians be delayed?

    —  Is the walking distance increased?

    —  Will pedestrians have to change levels?

    —  Are there adequate loading/unloading bays avoiding obstructions to the footpath?

    —  Is there physical separation to protect pedestrians?

    —  Are junctions provided with adequate crossing points for pedestrians, not involving diversions or delays with safe positioning of signals?

  The Government or Health & Safety Executive may wish to consider the use of the Health & Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 to enforce proper consideration of safety of pedestrians and other users in all development schemes, changes to road layouts, etc. This may entail the use of specific regulations, similar to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations made under the Act to give added protection to Construction workers, and those affected by Construction activities. These regulations put a requirement on designers to consider safety in construction, maintenance and use.

REGULATION

  In order to improve the comfort and safety of pedestrians it is necessary to enforce and strengthen existing regulations to prevent driving/parking/cycling on footpaths. Enforcement could be through traffic wardens and local authorities could be allowed to keep the proceeds of fines, or levy penal damages to contribute to pavement maintenance.

  The general enforcement of laws and regulations for motor vehicles and cyclists should be subject to similar policies of "zero tolerance" of other "street crimes" which are designed to improve the environment of our towns and cities and were cited as other reasons that people retreat to the security of cars.

  It may be necessary to introduce some form of identification for cyclists so that they can be subject to the same enforcement standards for red light and other offences.

  Do not introduce the "left turn on red" option being discussed, which would threaten the safety of pedestrians and restrict their freedom of movement even further.

January 2001


 
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