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

Memorandum by John Davison Esq (WTC 70)


  I have prepared this text, which includes some relevant statistics, in response to the committee's request for views on the following issues:

The contribution of walking to the Urban Renaissance, healthy living and reducing dependency on cars

  Many of the desirable features of urban life require that walking be the dominant mode of transport. The harsh reality is that pedestrians are dissuaded from making their highly desirable trips because other factors conspire to make walking appear highly unattractive and injurious to health.

  The urban area is well suited to walking since there are often facilities within close proximity and paved surfaces. For a number of reasons not discussed here, there has been a continuing exodus of population from many British urban areas. It has been discerned that to abandon the urban fabric is undesirable and moves are afoot to regenerate urban areas. The glue that holds the urban area together is walking. Walking is also part of community life. Towns and cities are places for meeting, communicating and trading. What happens on the pavements in towns and cities is an important part of civic, social, commercial and political life. In smaller towns and villages and in residential areas where friends and neighbours meet and exchange local news, walking helps develop community life and is also part of a surveillance process that aids security.

  Walking is the only mode available to everyone (other than people with severe mobility impairment), regardless of income, age, or location. Of all forms of passenger transport, walking and cycling are least socially divisive, because most people can use these modes of transport, and access to them is not dependent on levels of income. Walking can also increase feelings of independence. Walking needs no special equipment and is a healthy form of recreation. Demographic effects need to be considered in relation to walking. The population is ageing (60-69 year olds walk 5 per cent more than 30-59 year olds). Walking is a very important and suitable form of exercise for older people.

  A practical example of the required revival of an urban area is Sandwell. The Census shows that the number of people living in Sandwell has fallen by over 5 per cent between 1981 and 1991, from 307,000 in 1981 to 290,100.

  Despite the overall fall in population, the total number of households in Sandwell increased by 2.5 per cent between 1981 (110,670) and 1991 (113,400). The numbers of single person and one parent households in Sandwell have increased, whilst the number of households with children has fallen. One parent households now account for one in seven of all households with children.

West Midlands County
England & Wales

Population 1991
Households 1991
of which:
Single pensioner
Other single person
Lone parent
No car
2 or more cars

  Given that land taken for the storage of cars and the required road carriageway capacity affect urban form, it is imperative that car ownership in urban areas does not continue to grow. In 1991 in Sandwell, 45 per cent of households had no car (against 51 per cent in 1981), and many adults are clearly pedestrians for part or the whole of everyday journeys. Despite the numbers benefiting being so large, funding dedicating solely to benefit pedestrians remains low. In Sandwell, even the resources needed to complete the definitive map of rights of way has not been made available.

Population Estimates

England & Wales

Aged 0-4
Aged 5-15
Aged 16-60/65
Aged 60/65 +
(of which 75 +

  The table above shows the current age structure of Sandwell's population. It is predicted that the population of the Borough will continue to fall, mainly as a result of young adults (25-34s) moving out of Sandwell. At the same time, the number of very elderly residents (aged over 85) is likely to grow, although there will be falls in all age bands from 65-69 to 80-84. The number of households is also set to rise, as single person and lone parent housesholds increase.

The 1991 Census shows the proportion of ethnic groups resident in Sandwell

West Midlands County
England & Wales

Black Caribbean/African
Chinese and Other

  In addressing the urban renaissance there should be an ambition to address and involve all sections of the community and to nurture existing pedestrians; for they are legion. Tackling the opportunity of walking growth is a major social and transport issue needing adequate resources and is a key component of the urban renaissance.

The reasons for the decline in walking and the main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the number of journeys made by foot

  Walking along the public highway averaged across Great Britain, is in decline. The fall was largest for those aged 11 to 15. Walking to school has declined strongly in the past twenty years. this has serious implications for the personal development of young people including a decline in children's personal independence and health.

  Journey distances have lengthened as population and employment have decentralised and destinations have become less accessible. This has increased car dependency. Increased car ownership is identified as a significant factor in the decline of walking.

  Personal security fears appear to have increased significantly in recent years. These have had an effect on the popularity of walking, both as a primary mode and as a secondary mode in association with public transport. Other reasons why people do not walk include road safety, traffic noise, and breathing car exhaust fumes.

  Pedestrians can face problems of poor quality footways and footpaths in terms of pavement surface, kerbing, obstructions (litter bins, scaffolding, seats etc), debris (snow, ice, leaves) and space. Vehicles are often illegally parked on the footway. Worsening these problems is the disruption of pedestrian routes by side roads. At side roads when the pedestrian forms part of the traffic on the major road, emerging vehicles are unlikely to give way. At other times the pedestrian is at risk from vehicles on the footway: approximately one third of vehicles' impacts on pedestrians occur on the footway. The footway, which should be the sole preserve of the pedestrians, even where it has been provided, is not perceived to be safe.

  Despite almost one in three journeys being made on foot, facilities for walking as a form of transport are either absent or neglected. To cross a road is sometimes either very difficult or impossible. It is not simple to request from a highway authority that a crossing facility be installed. For provision of pedestrian crossings design advice is given in Department of Transport circulars. The circulars tend to require large existing flows of pedestrians to meet the criteria: an obvious absurdity since if large numbers of pedestrians already find adequate facilities to cross then a crossing is not needed.

  In rural areas, failure to provide footways to compensate for loss of safe facilities when vehicular traffic grows on all-purpose roads is the most obvious example of neglect. Whilst the select committee has chosen to focus on urban areas, a rural dweller may be compelled to make a car journey which then continues into the urban area by the nature of roads between the start of the journey and the public transport facility. Traffic may be generated or a journey suppressed if the availability of public transport for the longer leg is negated by the lack of walking facilities for the remainder.

  Collision with vehicles in a real issue. The AA Foundation for Road Safety Research Pedestrian Activity and Accident Risk, 1994, used pedestrian casualty records and gave exposures 411 casualties per 100 million km walked, or 66 casualties per 100 million roads crossed.

  For provision of an idealised footpath network, with basic requirements for walking including availability, negotiability, safety, economy, convenience, comfort and amenity, the Department of Transport has published circulars. Many of these publications are used to justify meandering and inconvenient routes. There are many examples of diversions and barriers to divert pedestrians in order to make vehicular traffic management easier. One design guide, only relatively recently withdrawn, had a hierarchy of new urban roads with the most direct road, the distributor road, not permitted to have a footway alongside. In general the design guides expect the pedestrian not to have just arrived in town, and also not to need to complete a journey quickly.

  Transport surveys and plans often fail to consider walking and all short trips (of which walking forms a very high proportion). Without there being consideration of walking as transport, it seems unlikely that facilities for pedestrians will be improved.

What should be done to promote walking, including the creation of the city squares, the role of pedestrianisation, Home Zones, additional measures to restrain traffic, the harmonisation of walking and public transport and improved safety and security for pedestrians?

  To encourage walking, two factors are journey length and the environment. In terms of environment, if walking is to be promoted as a travel mode, it is important that pedestrians feel safe from personal attack and from accidents with vehicles. For journey length, if pedestrian routes are created, they must minimise route detour and keep delays to a minimum. The walking routes should be properly marked, and kept passable in bad weather.

  There is a an urgent need to pursue Road Traffic reduction. Adjacent fast moving and incessant traffic is a disincentive to walking. There is also a need to acknowledge that building car parks and roads is not a solution to growth in vehicular road traffic.

  Walking is often a part of a journey with public transport forming another part. Public transport facilities need to be signposted and the level of service offered made clear. Provision, as a minimum, of timetable information, is required if the uncertainties are to be reduced.

  Correcting the urban form requires that the links between land use and transport are not only stated in documents, but are put into practice by bringing together the practitioners from the various disciplines.

  Provision for pedestrians in urban areas does not necessarily mean pedestrianisation. Some lavish schemes are rolled out in the centre of an urban area, and work well during business trading hours. A gentler programme might cover a wider area and create a network of trading and habitable streets perceived as safe after dark. Where types of trading are regarded as not well suited to pedestrianisation, the physical environment so completely fails to accommodate pedestrians that it is very hostile to them. In some areas it is not possible or desirable to have full pedestrianisation, and so areas of shared use have been developed. Residential areas lend themselves to shared use with low vehicular speeds. Adapting design to local conditions is the key.

  The potential for achieving improvements through planning is great:

    —  New development within established streets should positively address the street frontage

    —  Larger redevelopment schemes should be formed around logical pedestrian routes linked into the wider pedestrian network.

    —  No new developments should be permitted without internal pedestrian linkages and connections to local roads and public transport facilities.

    —  Every opportunity should be taken to create a network of town squares, civic squares, and pocket parks, to enhance the pedestrian environment.

    —  Areas perceived to be empty between certain hours because they are zoned for employment only should be reviewed as they can feel intimidating to walk through.

  A perceived failing of urban areas is the sense of not being cared for. For management of vehicular transport, the measures are physical (such as signs etc) and relatively expensive, with policing at a low level. For walking and cycling, the reverse situation applies. On transport. Capital Spending (such as new construction) looks dramatic. Whilst arguing for spending on staff (such as continuation of Walk to School initiatives may require, policing etc) and on maintenance, is much less persuasive.

What can be learnt from good practice both in England and Elsewhere?

  Many councils do have policies concerning pedestrians although these vary greatly in scope and objectives. A study of policies in overseas cities identified a growing awareness in the cities observed of the importance of walking as a mode of transport. Amongst examples of policy initiatives used in the city to encourage walking were: (a) reducing traffic speeds to 30 kph, (b) widening footways on main roads, and (c) improving the provision of pedestrian phases at traffic signals. In main land Europe's city centres, pedestrianisation of the main shopping streets has been the norm, usually in conjunction with the introduction of rail-based public transport improvements and daytime closure to cars.

  In GB, developers of wholly new shopping centres such as Merry Hill (W Mids) and Metrocentre (Tyne & Wear) have identified advantage in excluding vehicles (and the weather). These are "out of town"; the formula for a pleasant shopping environment needs refinement before it can be transplanted to existing retail areas. In existing run-down urban areas there are considerable pressures to not over-regulate development, and a desire by local authorities to accommodate the promoter so that the money is not taken elsewhere. The lesson here is to establish National Standards on the future form of British towns and cities and to market these standards to all of the relevant practitioners. In the case of Merry Hill as it stands, were a housing development to be erected within a mile, a walk to the local shops would involve passage through featureless and windswept car parks and negotiation of heavily trafficked distributor roads and tails of roundabouts.

  Birmingham's Broad Street, close to the City Centre but separated from it by an inner ring road, was reconnected by reinstating the level link on foot. Subsequent widening and re-paving of footways reinforced the message that pedestrians are welcome. Previously a street of empty premises and struggling businesses, business is now booming.

  In Birmingham in the 1970s, as part of a railway service enhancement various stations were opened. University, and Five Ways stations are two examples where there is no car parking and where patronage is high.

  In 1998 and 1999, Birmingham's Brindley Place development was opened. Large areas are pedestrianised and busy through much of the day and night. Some of the success is attributed to the "mixed-use" concept so that it is an area of employment, habitation, and recreation so that people are always around. The development is, however, maintained to a high standard, and staff are always on hand (as is CCTV monitoring).

Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate skills and training

  Whilst some councils have policies concerning pedestrians, these vary greatly in scope and objectives. Sandwell MBC is one of the more active authorities and is developing a Walking Strategy. The Strategy sets out to address and reverse the decline in walking and to improve the health of its residents and the quality of life of those living and working in the area. There is no doubt that the process is an educational one for the officers of that authority.

  Especially since the era of Beeching on the railways, the presumption has been that public transport must decline and car traffic must grow. This notion was not ever clearly articulated as its impracticality would soon be evident: if every adult had a vehicle, town and city residential streets would not have enough space to store them. Government departments local authorities and consulting engineers have spent the past 40 years designing and creating an environment round the needs of vehicular traffic. It has been evident of late that business managers in passenger railway companies find it difficult to accept that the public can walk from their home to a new station and rarely consider adding anything other than Park and Ride.

  Whilst now the Institution of Civil Engineers accepts that its Royal Charter embraces the concept of "Sustainability" and the issues of resource use and integrated transport are embodied in the education, training and professional development, the decision makers may not have been won over. There is a chronic shortage of professionals, particularly in senior positions, with the appropriate outlook and technical skills to create environments where using one's feet for transport is not only advantageous, but a pleasure.

Whether all Government Departments, their agencies, including the Highways Agency, and local authorities are taking appropriate measures, and in particular whether Local Transport Plans, PPG 13 and the Government Paper, Encouraging Walking, are adequate.

  The Pedestrians Association was disappointed that the booklet "Encouraging Walking (2000)" failed to include targets for increasing the level of walking. The inclusion of targets can give a measure of how successful actions have been and a comparison of commitment of different areas to a walking strategy. Earlier in my response I included some characteristics relating to Sandwell; a comparison of these with other areas would stress the welcome diversity of life in GB. Uniform responses are not a feature of diverse cultures. I argue that "Encouraging Walking", a little known document, should be widely and freely available and it is that availability for which targets should initially be set.

  The Highways Agency (HA) are definitely not taking appropriate measures to encourage walking. HA make the right noises about urban areas and about modal shift from car travel to public transport, but they are a longer journeys organisation. HA has yet to walk away from its past tendency not to accommodate pedestrians. Examples from only a few years ago include:

    —  On line upgrading of a section of the A40 in Oxfordshire forming part of a link between two towns (and increasing vehicle speeds from 60mph to 70) was not to include a surfaced footpath in the verge. This was on the grounds that a path would encourage people to walk there and result in casualties when stray vehicles veered off the carriageway.

    —  The A420 (Oxfordshire) Kingston Bagpuize bypass (opened 1991) which threads amongst villages created substantial opportunity for integration of redundant lengths of road into a walking network. In preference the redundant lengths were entirely stopped up: not even one metre of footway was constructed.

  Planning Guidance PPG 13 suggests that local authorities should aim to encourage forms of development which encourage walking, cycling and public transport use. To meet these aims, the choice should be maintained and improved for people to include walking in the journey between homes and facilities. Physical measures can include traffic calming, environmental improvements, improved lighting, provision of wider pavements and narrower carriageways, and pedestrian-friendly road crossings that avoid detours, long waits, or underpasses.

  Walking is an essential part of much car and almost all public transport travel. Bus stops are usually accessed on foot, and about 80 per cent of rail travellers arrive at or leave the station on foot. The provision of good pedestrian links to public transport facilities is therefore an essential element in promoting sustainable, integrated transport. The experience on the ground is discouraging; in 1999 the Pedestrians Association asked Birmingham City Council to add pedestrian phases at an intermediate junction on an urban road linking the major bus routes on the Hagley Road to the Botanical Gardens. In response the council refused to countenance the expenditure and described a complex alternative route which would not be obvious to a visitor.

  Guidance is not only available from Government; the Institution of Highways and Transportation has produced, in year 2000, a set of guidelines covering provision for walking. The main purpose of Guidelines for Providing for Journeys on Foot is to describe best practice in planning and providing for pedestrians within the existing UK legislative framework. It is a technical document to support the policies contained in the 1998 White Paper, "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone". The Guidelines advise on how to plan and implement walking measures as part of a wider integrated transport strategy; they also provide guidance on how to review and update the walking aspects of the strategy. The Guidelines are intended for use by transport planners, traffic engineers, design engineers, maintenance engineers, travel awareness officers and architects, in both the public and private sectors. They are also intended to assist Councillors, voluntary groups and others who wish to pursue improvements to the pedestrian environment.

In conclusion, there is adequate guidance, and the opportunity for local and national government to require that it is adhered to. It is suggested that:

    —  The booklet "Encouraging Walking" be widely distributed

    —  In Local Transport Plans a sum for facilities for walking based on population should be the standard (rather than the current number of miles of road), and it should be the standard that is enhanced when application is made identifying a need.

Whether greater priority should be given to measures to promote walking, including a grater share of the Government budget and the re-allocation of road space

  Despite pedestrians outnumbering vehicles, the design and layout of shopping and residential areas often gives dominance to cars. Even when vehicular traffic has been reduced on a road, such as through construction of an alternative route or through conversion to one-way traffic, it is rare for road space to be allocated to pedestrians. In residential areas there is still a tendency, which should be reversed, for the green margin between the carriageway and the footway to be re-allocated for parking. In some shopping areas, there is a need to assign a far greater width to comfortably accommodate high flows of pedestrians.

  Whilst London's direct provision for pedestrians is not demonstrably better than other British cities, the facilities within walking distance of peoples' homes is superior. A prime example is the network of surface and underground railways. Most of London's stations do not have car parks.

  The promotion of walking should be moved towards the top of the list for health, for planning, and for transport. If even a fraction of the patience and resources devoted to Park and Ride were to be developed to Walk and Ride, it would be progress. We have made mistakes with past transport decisions and we have left some communities severed by grandiose urban road schemes. We have now an opportunity to recognise that whilst comfort and convenience has steadily increased for other modes of transport, the walking experience has been left behind. A greater share of the budget to pedestrians is a benefit not only to them, but also to the physical and social nature of our urban areas.

  Throughout the 1990s, Governments have recognised the relationship between Transport and Land Use. Recent announcements are very specific about certain measures, but seem not to mention walking as transport.

  The Government has already kicked off many initiatives that will help towns and cities, such as raising education standards and tackling planning and housing issues. At the September 2000 Core Cities Conference—a summit comprising Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and Bristol—Local Government and Regions Minister Hilary Armstrong said that the country needed strong, thriving and competitive cities throughout the regions, not just in London.

  In November 2000 it was announced that the budget for repairing local roads in England was to be doubled to £1,000 million. These resources—£535 million in 2001-02 and £555 million in 2002-03—will be made available to local authorities to spend on highway maintenance and will be enough to start restoring.

    —  270,000 km of local roads

    —  52,000 bridges

    —  223,000km of footways

  The distribution to individual authorities is based on the length and condition of their roads and the number of bridges that require strengthening. These capital resources provided through the Local Transport Plan settlement are in addition to the support for local highway maintenance provided through Revenue Support Grant. The basis of the spending is, unfortunately, against the spirit of encouraging walking. The authority which has boosted its road mileage through making provision for cars and suppressing walking, receives the reward.

  The importance of walking as the mode of transport in urban areas did not appear to in figure the November 2000 White Paper. "Our Towns and Cities: the Future" which did include:

    —  A comprehensive package of fiscal incentives aimed at encouraging people to invest in urban areas

    —  New Planning Policy guidance to put urban renaissance at the heart of the urban planning system

    —  A drive for better education and health services and more access to jobs

    —  Up to 12 new Urban Regeneration Companies and five more Millennium Villages

    —  Measures to cut crime.

January 2001

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