Memorandum by the Institute of Leisure
and Amenity Management (ILAM) (WTC 66)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
The Institute would like to give written evidence
to the above inquiry in relation to walking in towns and cities.
A series of case studies illustrating a number of different projects
and initiatives have been put together and submitted as appendix
one to this memorandum. These case studies clearly show that walking
has become a recognised form of healthy activity and that local
authorities and other providers have already achieved a great
deal in terms of design work and community engagement in encouraging
walking for a variety of different purposes.
Despite the number of initiatives encouraging
people to walk for leisure and to access leisure facilities, utilitarian
purposes and to the place of employment the Institute feels that
there are still a number of barriers and obstacles to participation
which must be addressed before the downward trend in participation
can be reversed.
The Institute feels that the primary reason
for non-participation in walking is fear of personal safety; safety
from motorised vehicles, other path users and fear of attack.
Mechanisms such as traffic calming, pedestrianisation of town
centres and subways and foot bridges have been successfully used
to reduce risk of harm from motorised traffic and there is a great
deal of good practice and examples which can be cited to illustrate
a number of solutions.
However, there is often still a conflict between
user groups, especially where routes and paths are designed for
shared use (walking, cycling, roller blading), which due to constraints
on space are becoming more popular. The Countryside Agency's recent
research into user conflict on shared use routes, undertaken by
the University of Surrey illustrates that in most cases this conflict
is more perceived than actual but any perception of conflict or
fear for personal safety may have the outcome of dissuading people
from walking. This has recently been shown by the outrage by walkers
to the plans to open up the inner paths within London's Kensington
Gardens to cyclists for an eight month trial period.
The Institute feels that much more could be
done to encourage walking. The Salsa LIFE funded project run by
the London Borough of Ealing has shown that community involvement
in the location and design of safe routes to leisure facilities
has increased awareness of the potential of these routes to be
used for walking. It is still too early to show whether the routes
created as part of this project have increased walking but research
has shown that awareness has indeed been raised. Public education
is an important part of any walking strategy. It was extremely
unfortunate that an attack on two girls was attempted on one of
the Salsa routes just before its formal launch. The perpetrator
was apprehended within the week but parental perception of their
child's safety has now been tainted by this rare incident.
This does illustrate the fear for personal safety
from routes which may not follow main roads. Any sort of isolation
can result in a fear of attack. It is therefore important that
these routes are well lit and open and are used regularly.
Public education should start at school level
and children and parents should be encouraged to walk to school.
The Transport 2000 guidance illustrates how this can be achieved.
Walking buses have been piloted and addresses parental concerns
of children carrying heavy bags full of exercise books and gym
The provision of facilities, such as seating,
toilets and refreshments will also enhance the experience of walking
for all purposes. And for some user groups will be more important
than others, for example people with disabilities and the elderly,
will often require resting places to enable any sort of distance
to be travelled.
Signage is also an important part of public
education and encouraging walking. Often people have very little
experience of travelling no more than 100 metres from their house
by foot and are often unaware of safe routes which can be used
to access local facilities. Much more could be done to sign local
routes and raise local awareness as to their existence.
Sustrans have pioneered the use of public art
and landscaping along the national cycleway and more could be
done to encourage the use of public art along walking routes.
Especially in the form of innovative signage options.
However this type of additional investment requires
additional budgetary provision and the Institute would urge the
Government to identify new funding streams to encourage this type
of activity further.
The Institute feels strongly that walking should
be an integral part of sustainable transport planning and should
be included within local authorities transport plans. Transport
2000 have undertaken a great deal of work in this area and have
produced a good practice guide for safe routes to schools and
have been working with visitor attractions to look at green transport
plans for tourism operators. A conference and guide on this subject
is planned for later this year.
The Green Gym has become a recognised term
where the outdoor environment is encouraged to be used to improve
physical health. An important part of this exercise regime is
achieved through walking. Walking is proven to boost the circulation
and raises the heart rate and is a safe and natural exercise for
people of all ages and conditions and particularly suitable for
the elderly, unfit, overweight and for convalescents. It is recommended
that everybody should all try and walk about five kilometres every
day. GP referrals for exercise and leisure activities are now
becoming more mainstream and a number of such examples have been
provided for your information.
However it is important that the resource used
for the exercise is adequately provided and maintained. Within
towns and cities the role of public parks and open spaces for
walking should not be underestimated and despite many of the good
things that came out of the Select Committee into Town and Country
Parks and the Government's recent Urban White paper, the Institute
would continue its lobby for more resources to be allocated to
improving and maintaining these important resources within the
Whilst it is obvious that walking can be incorporated
through planning departments in relation to transport initiatives,
it is becoming increasingly important that any providers of public
services should be considering their own roles in encouraging
walking to their sites. This is the case for leisure professionals
in the provision of facilities and services. Leisure professionals
are also more and more involved in the provision of walking routes
for leisure and tourism. Development officers, such as sports,
parks and play will also have an important role in promoting walking
as a healthy activity and as a means to enjoy the services and
facilities that they are involved in. They will be involved in
providing advice and information, and may often be involved in
I hope these comments are of assistance to the
Committee in gathering its evidence on walking in towns and cities.
Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management