Memorandum by Rob Wheway Esq (WTC 79)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
I am a children's play consultant. The comments
in this Report are based on significant observational and interview
research of children at play both in play facilities and in the
streets and roads of a wide variety of areas of housing.
I have 30 years experience of work in children's
play. Presently I act as Principal ConsultantChildren's
Play for ILAM Services (the consultancy arm of the Institute of
Leisure and Amenity Management). I have regularly undertaken contracts
for Local Authorities and commercial organisations on behalf of
the Child Accident Prevention Trust, the National Playing Fields
Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
The views expressed in this memorandum are my own.
I undertook research on 12 housing estates (with
Dr Alison Millward) on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
and the subsequent Report was published jointly by them and the
Chartered Institute of Housing and is "Child's Play: Facilitating
play on housing estates".
In addition I have carried out similar research
for Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, London Borough of Lambeth,
Milton Keynes Council, Oxford City Council, Waltham Forest Housing
Action Trust and William Sutton Housing Trust. Each contract concerned
a variety of different locations eg in areas of Council, private,
and social housing and in types ranging from terraced to semi-detached,
high rise, low rise etc.
As a parent I returned to bring my children
up in the area of Coventry in which I spent my childhood. I was
therefore able to witness the reduction in children's freedom
to walk to school, cubs/brownies and to other local facilities
which has occurred during the past 30 years.
Also as a businessman I use public transport
and walking or cycling as a matter of policy whenever possible
and hire cars when the distances between sites are too great.
I have therefore significant experience from a business point
In all observations in different parts of the
country there has been a consistent finding that, where traffic
cannot travel through an area unrestricted (whether by accident
of design), children are out travelling around their own neighbourhood.
Where cars can travel through residential roads
at fast speeds, that is up to 30 miles per hour, then parents
restrict their children and keep them in the house.
This is not a result of computer games keeping
children in, as the differences do not appear to alter with levels
of income. In fact the arguments used regarding computer games
are exactly the same as were used for the television in the fifties,
yet more children played out then.
Typically, where traffic cannot travel fast
along roads, parents allow children at a young age to sit on the
front step or go into the front garden; as they gain in confidence
and ability parents let them travel along the same side of the
road to a next-door neighbour. This range then develops as their
parents' confidence increases and they travel to friends, relative's
houses, shops, play areas etc.
In the Joseph Rowntree research we found that
children were "instinctively active", that is where
they could play out they did and undertook a large amount of active
play and many short journeys. In our observations of children
in their neighbourhoods 40 per cent were of children "moving
purposefully in a direction". The majority of these were
on foot, the remainder being on bicycles, or occasionally other
wheels eg skates.
Our calculation on the amount of travel is best
described in the following brief extract from the Report:
"Children spend approximately 40 per cent
of their play time travelling from one place to another. These
places may be relatively close to each other (30-100 metres) and
although the children tend to spend only a few minutes at them,
the journeys between them are important for the children. In one
hour we therefore estimate that a child might make five journeys.
If we then take a population of 100 children
and assume that only half of them play out and for only one hour
after school on school days, this generates 250 journeys per day.
As school days account for half the days in the year, this generates
approximately 45,000 journeys per annum.
If in the same population only 50 per cent play
out for an average of two hours on each holiday and weekend day,
this generates a further 90,000 journeys per annum.
Finally, if we assume that in addition to all
these journeys, each child is likely to make four journeys each
day of the year (to school, the shop, a friend's, or the ice-cream
van, and back again) this generates 146,000 journeys.
Added together this gives us 281,000 journeys
per 100 children per annum. Now this may prove to be an over-estimate
when tested by further research. On the other hand, having witnessed
children at play outside on some estates from 9 am to 10 pm in
the summer holidays, it may prove to be a serious underestimate,
and the true figure might be nearer 300,000 or even 400,000.
Nonetheless, whether on some estates it is 200,000
or 400,000 journeys per 100 children per annum, these are vast
numbers of journeys which are vital for children's freedom to
play. They are also journeys which are non-polluting and give
This travel is almost entirely ignored by those
responsible for planning for transport. There is no system for
including these within any overall transport figures, yet they
are vital for children.
Whilst my research did not cover other pedestrians,
eg parents with pushchairs, the elderly, and those who cannot
afford a car, it is likely that they are also adversely affected
by the failure to recognise walking within a neighbourhood as
a form of transport.
The committee will have received evidence from
Mayer Hillman on the reduction in children's ranges. I will not
repeat this but merely confirm that the conclusions he made in
his Report "One False Move" are consistent with my research
findings, and also my experience as a parent.
I considered his research with other information
on children's ranges and concluded that the reductions in ranges
had more serious repercussions than were generally realised. This
is because if the average child's range at a particular age is
reduced to half of what it was previously, then the area of their
neighbourhood with which they are able to interact will reduce
to as little as a quarter. If the range reduced to a third then
the area of the neighbourhood reduces to as little as a ninth,
a quarter to a sixteenth etc. (Area relates to the square of a
Research in Zurich by Hüttenmoser, Degen-Zimmerman
"Lebensraume für Kinder" compared children
who could play freely outside their own homes, with those who
could not. It found that "At the time they began kindergarten,
those children who did not have the possibility to play freely
and without danger near their home showed a considerably less
advanced social and motor development, and they were less autonomous."
They also found that both children and their
parents felt they had less friends and acquaintances.
It should be emphasised that these changes are
apparent by the age of five years.
Together all these findings tend to confirm
that if children cannot walk and run around outside within their
own neighbourhood they are likely to be less fit. What is probably
more surprising is that it may also significantly contribute to
the dramatic rise in fear of "stranger danger". This
rise is contrary to all evidence. It would appear that neighbours
meet each other, and get to know each other, through their children.
When the children's ranges diminish, so people know each other
less well. A much higher proportion of people are therefore strangers
and the fear increases exponentially.
Where they have the freedom to travel, the significant
development for children is between the ages of three to eight
years. There is therefore a new generation every five years.
Whilst I support the concept of Home Zones,
it is clear that the benefits to the vast majority of children
in this country will not happen until it is too late for them.
Children's unaccompanied travel on foot (or
bicycle, skates etc) is, and should be, considered an important
form of transport. It should be considered on a par with all other
forms of transport.
Residential roads are for living in, not for
driving through. Priority in residential roads should therefore
be given to the pedestrian with motorists restricted to very slow
speeds (in most cases this will only be for the last 50 or 100
yards of a journey).
To achieve this there should be a new designation
for residential roads. Where the local residents wish it, there
should be an assumption that this new designation will be granted
unless the road serves a necessary distributory function.
As with 30 mile per hour in urban areas, this
should not be dependent on extensive engineering works.
As part of the driving test motorists should
demonstrate that they can recognise, and drive slowly and safely
within this type of road ie where pedestrians will have priority.
Some concern has been expressed about cyclists
on pavements and the adverse effect this may have for pedestrians.
I make the following comments.
This phenomena has occurred because the roads
have become dangerous, not because cyclists have become more uncaring.
In the 1950s it was usual for runners from athletic clubs to run
on the road and as a child my scout group paraded on the road;
both of these were done to leave the pavement free for pedestrians.
With increasing traffic these were both driven on to the pavement,
and with further increases in traffic, cyclists have been driven
on to the pavement.
Whilst naturally any reckless disregard by cyclists
of pedestrians should be rightly criticised, it is my view that
addressing the problems that cyclists face would have more of
the effect of leaving the pavements free for pedestrians, than
going down the route of increasing penalties.
If people are to walk more they will need to
use public transport for some of the longer distances. Buses are
generally very inadequate in giving people the feeling of security
for their journey. The difference between a tube or metro system
and a bus is instructive. With a tube or metro the passenger usually
The route the vehicle is travelling.
When they have reached their particular
How long it is likely to be before
the next vehicle arrives.
They will be able to get on in reasonable
comfort it they have children, pushchair, shopping bags etc.
The journey will be relatively smooth
(cup of tea test).
How connections with other routes
can be made.
This is almost never the case with buses and
therefore people are discouraged from using them. Significant
changes to reassure potential customers are needed.
If people are walking, to say a train station,
and arrive back during particularly inclement weather, or late
at night, they may wish to know that they can use a taxi. Unfortunately
the taxis are geared to private use by an individual. Many people
do not require this luxury, what they do need is to know that
they will be taken to their home in safety. Sharing relies on
making an agreement with a stranger over costs, which is potentially
A system which enabled people to pay a known
fixed cost to ensure they reached home safely (or dry) would,
I believe, give many more the confidence to walk and use public
transport knowing there is a good fall-back position.