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

Memorandum by the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management (ILAM) (WTC 66)


  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 equipment.


  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 urban environment.


  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 guiding walks.

  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

January 2001

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