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


Memorandum by Martin Schweiger Esq (WTC 82)

Walking in Towns and Cities

  I hope you will be able to accept these few observations on your very important inquiry into Walking in Towns and Cities.

CONTRIBUTION OF WALKING TO THE URBAN RENAISSANCE, HEALTHY LIVING AND REDUCTION OF DEPENDENCY ON CARS

  One of the best definitions of health, promoted by Professor Rex Fendall of Liverpool University (now retired) was that health was being in a state of harmony with yourself and the world around you. It is the promotion of health in that sense that makes walking so worthwhile in our urban areas. It is the chance to look, listen and learn, processes that are far more difficult from a car. The physical health benefits of walking are well known, what is less well known is the physical dis-benefits of sitting in slow moving cars with poorer air quality inside the car than outside.

REASONS FOR DECLINE IN WALKING AND THE MAIN OBSTACLES TO ENCOURAGING WALKING AND INCREASING THE NUMBER OF JOURNEYS MADE ON FOOT

  Time, there is a perception that journeys by car will be quicker than by foot. This is not always so for urban journeys of two kms or less. Many cities are laid out for the car to pass smoothly, it is the pedestrian who has to walk around the roads and take detours through underpasses or footbridges. This adds to the time taken for the journey and the effort required to make them. More importantly it adds to the perception of time taken.

  Fear of personal safety. Particularly on dark evenings. Muggings do take place on our city streets and this frightens people away. Our town planning needs to address this. The current move towards encroaching on the pavements for shop expansion, parking or street furniture makes the problem worse. Crossing roads is also a perceived hazard and is a justification used by parents who take children to school by car.

  Unpleasant experiences for the walker include exposure to dog faeces and broken paving.

  It is unfortunate that the weather in the UK is not always good. Travel by car is drier and warmer than travel by foot.

  Older people or those with infirmities need places to rest along their route. There are too few seats available for those who need them. Equally there are too few public toilets for those who need them.

WHETHER THE RELEVANT PROFESSIONALS HAVE THE APPROPRIATE SKILLS AND TRAINING

  Whilst it is accepted that one to one consultations with doctors are good ways of influencing behaviour, few doctors have had any training about the health benefits of walking, even fewer regularly walk themselves. Nurses are in a similar position as regards their training.

OTHER MATTERS

  Many people are wearing unsuitable shoes, which make walking tiring or even painful. Women in particular may find it fashionable to wear raised heels that push the forepart of the foot against the front of the shoe and force the meta-tarsals to take too much weight too often. Narrowed or pointed footwear will also make walking uncomfortable. Encouraging sensible footwear should be part of any comprehensive strategy for increasing the proportion of the population who walk regularly.

  (NB: I should declare an interest. My father was a shoemaker, my brother is one and I am a non-executive director of the Orthopaedic Footwear Company, 4 Paddington Street, London, W1M 3LA).

Member of the West Yorkshire Transport and Health Study Group Chair of the Leeds Air Quality and Health Interest Group

January 2001


 
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