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


Memorandum by Salsa (WTC 67)

WALKING IN TOWNS & CITIES

  The Salsa (sustainable access to leisure sites and amenities) project aims to increase the numbers of children walking and cycling to leisure facilities in the London Borough of Ealing. Research with parents and children in 1999 identified the barriers to walking and cycling and the local improvements desired before parents would consider allowing their children more freedom to travel independently. The construction of four safe routes in Spring 2000 linked densely populated residential areas with their local libraries, parks, swimming pools and other leisure facilities.

  The project has been funded by the EU Life Environment programme and is supported by 13 partner organisations. One of the partners, Mayer Hillman, is also responding to your inquiry and I have therefore tried not to duplicate the points he has made.

  Ealing is working on a number of initiatives seeking to enable and encourage walking. Several safe routes to schools projects have been completed and a pilot "home zone" project area is underway. The intention of creating safe routes to leisure tackles the issue of children's journeys outside school time. This is another step towards a comprehensive network of pedestrian and cycle routes linking residential areas with local amenities including shops, businesses and public services.

  By introducing schemes like pay and display car parking at large leisure facilities customers are encouraged to consider other forms of travel.

1.  The Barriers to Children's Independent Mobility

  The key findings from the research undertaken with 800 parents by MORI in June 1999 are summarised below.

    —  Only a minority let their children walk alone in the local area. Even smaller proportions allow them to cycle or use buses alone. Of those who do allow their children some independence, the majority worry when their children are out alone.

    —  Reasons for concern primarily focus on the perceived, yet very small, risk of abduction or sexual attack, as well as the higher risk of a traffic accident. Other key concerns include exposure to drugs, being bullied or being mugged.

    —  These concerns and the lack of independence for many, means significant proportions of parents feel their children do not get enough exercise and they spend too much time in the inactive pursuits of watching television and playing computer games.

    —  Attitudes towards local leisure facilities are divided, with higher levels of satisfaction among the middle classes and parents in two of the four target areas.

    —  The key reason for satisfaction with local facilities is a perception of a wide range of facilities. Similarly the key reason for dissatisfaction is a perceived lack of facilities.

    —  The majority agree that too many people in Ealing rely on their car and local developments exacerbate this dependence. This is reflected in respondents' behaviour—the majority say their children are frequently driven to local leisure facilities.

    —  A range of changes are advocated by parents to make it safer for their children to walk and cycle alone in Ealing—more police on the beat, encourage Ealing residents to "look out" for children, a general reduction in speed limits and better street lighting.

  Full copies of both the MORI qualitative and quantitative reports are available on request.

  3.  Desired Improvements to Enable Walking.

  The key fears that parents have with regards their children walking alone in the local area are clearly reflected in the changes they would like to see implemented.

  Two-thirds want more police on the beat to counter crime (65 per cent). More than two in five favour a campaign to encourage residents to look out for the safety of children (43 per cent), while the most popular traffic-related change is reducing the speed limits on roads which is noted by a similar proportion (39 per cent). Improved street lighting (31 per cent), more traffic calming measures (29 per cent) and the introduction of more pedestrian crossings (25 per cent) are all cited by at least one in four.

4.  TARGETING CHILDREN

  Analysis of the research indicated that available resources would be best targeted towards children age nine to 14. Older children make their own decisions about mode of travel and younger children are not considered mature enough by the majority of parents to cope with a high level of independence.

  Salsa has targeted children in these age groups because:-

    —  Children are concerned about the environmental impact of motorised transport.

    —  Children's behaviour is more easily changed than adults.

    —  "Good" habits established in childhood influence decisions made in later life.

  The last point is particularly important because it seems unlikely that children who have been transported everywhere by car will become adults who regard walking as a valid and normal transport model Enabling parents to feel confident about allowing/encouraging children to make local trips without adult escort is a crucial measure in overcoming car dependence and improving public health.

Madeleine Gormanql
Salsa Project Manger

January 2001


 
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