Memorandum by CSS (WTC 83)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
In response to the request for written evidence
for the inquiry into "Walking in Towns and Cities" the
CSS would like to make a number of points. This information is
informed by the experience of local government in providing and
maintaining the majority of the road and pavement network in the
country. Local authority officers who were involved in, and contributed
to, the development of the Government Paper "Encouraging
walking" have also contributed to this evidence.
Before commenting on the specific questions
posed by the committee it is necessary to make the general point
that the problems faced by pedestrians will vary both between
individual towns and cities and also within each urban area. The
problems will depend on factors such as size, geographic layout
and topography of the area and also on the local availability
of public transport, the type of journey being made, the age of
the pedestrian and even the time of day. For instance problems
on a shopping trip in the town centre may differ from those on
the journey to school through a housing estate. An older person
may find pavement unevenness more difficult to cope with than
a younger person and problems during the day may differ to those
at night. The range of problems means that there are no simple
or universal solution to the issues. Different actions will be
necessary to encourage walking at different locations and for
different types of pedestrian journeys.
With regard to the specific questions posed
by the committee, our views are as given below. (The questions
asked cannot all be considered in isolation and the evidence should
be read as a whole. Some questions have been combined to avoid
repetition in the evidence)
The reasons for the decline in walking and the
main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the number
of journeys made by foot
For many people a private motor vehicle is essential
to enable them to access essential services and lead a normal
life. This is especially true if they live in a rural area or
if they live away from their work (a more common occurrence today
when both partners in a relationship are likely to be working).
Often in these instances it is not economically feasible to provide
public transport services for all the journeys people may need
or want to make.
For the majority of the population the car,
if not essential, does make it easier and more pleasant to access
both essential and leisure services. A visit to the Doctors can
become an ordeal if you are unwell but face a long walk to get
to and from the surgery. A trip to the shops or the cinema is
usually pleasurable but not if you need to carry your purchases
a long way home or if the weather is bad or if the night is dark
and you are worried about being mugged or if you have a long wait
for public transport.
There are undoubtedly a range of reasons for
the decline in walking; busier lifestyles; longer distances required
to reach essential services such as schools or shops; a greater
desire to travel for leisure purposes etc. However these could
not on their own bring about a decline in walking. The decline
in walking is caused by the fact that the car is, in many circumstances,
a better alternative.
The drawbacks to the rising numbers of cars
and car journeys are:
Increasing numbers of accidents.
Increasing air pollution.
Increasing carbon dioxide emissions
adding to global warming.
A decline in social interaction,
especially in residential areas.
Lower personal fitness for these
who take less exercise.
As a result of these problems it must be true
that both the economy and individuals suffer through longer journey
times and the costs and problems associated with accidents and
poorer health. In addition the environment in many residential
areas and town centres has changed so that the streets are dominated
by both moving and parked cars and are no longer areas where children
are allowed to play or in which people interact.
The question is at what stage do the disbenefits
of cars outweigh the benefits and, if action needs to be taken,
what will be the least disruptive changes for the public as a
whole. The CSS believe that this is a question for local people
to answer. Improving conditions for pedestrians may be part of
the answer but so to might be improving conditions for cyclists,
improving public transport and in some circumstances improving
the road network. It is the responsibility of local authorities,
and especially local highway authorities, to ensure that, where
problems exist, they involve local communities in the development
of changes required to address the problems. It is the responsibility
of Central and Regional Government to ensure an adequate legislative
framework and sufficient finance is available for any changes
and improvements required.
Pedestrianisation and City Squares
People enjoy walking in a pleasant environment.
This can be achieved with clean pleasant even paving and with
trees, statues, fountains and other street art. In the right environment
people also like to be able to linger, to enjoy the air and to
watch the world go by. For this they need seats, toilets and to
feel safe both from traffic and from other people. Our town centres
are appropriate places to create the environment which people
want to visit and where they are encouraged to linger. This is
a potential benefit that the town centre shops have over the out
of town shopping centres.
For pedestrianisation to succeed there is a
need to ensure that access to the area is convenient for those
walking, travelling on public transport or travelling by car.
There is also a need to ensure that the area is safe and is perceived
as safe by the public at all times. Many pedestrianised areas
which are felt to be safe during the day are seen as no go areas
by the public at night.
Existing legislation allows the introduction
of home zones designed to create an environment where vehicles
are catered for but are not the dominant feature. Until last year
legislation did not permit the designation of pedestrian priority
over vehicles within these areas (as is the case in some other
countries) but provision has been made within the Transport Act
2000 to enable this to change.
In most residential areas it must be right to
ensure that vehicles are not the dominant feature. However this
will only be achieved where it is supported by local residents
and where the home zone environment can be "defended and
policed" by the residents themselves. This will not be easy
to achieve. Experience with traffic calming, and initial experience
with home zones, indicates that some vehicle users are unwilling
to slow their vehicles in residential streets even when the highway
layout makes faster speeds dangerous. We believe that, for the
maximum benefit from home zones, it will be useful to have the
ability to introduce measures to allow pedestrian priority where
this is supported by the local authority and local residents.
Safer routes and school travel plans
The peak period for congestion and accidents
are during the morning and evening weekday travel to work and
travel to school periods. Action to reduce travel by car during
these periods should have a high priority. Safer routes and school
travel plans are designed to reduce congestion and identify actions
to be taken to make non-car travel on the journey to and from
school safer. These initiatives do not just concentrate on walking
but also deal with cycling safety and parking issues. For some
schools improved bus transport is appropriate.
Initial indications are that these schemes have
the potential for reducing car travel. However the changes rely
on changing attitudes and on providing safe alternatives to travel
by car which can be costly. For maximum benefit it would be appropriate
to consider this to be a longer-term issue. It is considered that
funding may well be required for such schemes for at least the
next 20 years.
Travel to work plans
As with travel to school initiatives travel
to work plans have the potential for reducing car travel during
weekday peak periods. In general improving conditions for pedestrians
is unlikely to play a major part in such schemes. Adequate provision
of public transport and car share schemes are more likely to have
an effect in reducing car travel. This is not to say that we can
ignore the need to ensure that adequate safe walking routes are
available to industrial estates and other major employment sites.
In recent years information has become more
readily available and is easier to access, especially through
the Internet. This means that good practice and new ideas are
now more readily disseminated than in the past.
What is essential is that local government is
able to try out new ideas and initiatives without being hampered
by legislation which imposes restrictions. Some of the details
in The Transport Act 2000 (such as the clauses on home zones and
on school crossing patrols) shows that there is a willingness
to remove restrictions. Other legislative restrictions which,
it has been suggested, can delay pedestrian improvements include
the electricity company monopoly on street light connections and
the DETR approval required for non-standard signs.
It has to be acknowledged that there are examples
of new developments constructed in the past (some in the last
ten years) which have been designed primarily for vehicular access
and which do not provide good facilities for pedestrians. It has
been suggested that failures to adequately provide for pedestrians
on new developments could be taken to indicate a lack of expertise
on behalf of the designers and those who granted the necessary
permissions. We believe that the problem is not simply one of
lack of expertise, it is more to do with the general culture which
has put such great emphasis on car travel. This culture has supported
out of town shopping developments and industrial estates which
can only realistically be accessed by car (and to a lesser extent
by public transport) and has allowed the car to take greater precedence
in more and more areas. Any fault for this must be shared by the
public at large, by Members who represent the public, and by Government
policy makers as well as by local authority professionals.
This being the case the training required to
resolve the problems goes beyond the training of professionals.
There is, more importantly, a need to "train" the public
to ensure they understand the issues to be resolved. Traditionally
training has involved road safety activity, particularly with
young people, but we need to do more. We need to train all road
Examples of this approach are the activities
carried out as part of the TravelWise travel awareness campaign.
This can involve national promotions, such as the Don't Choke
Britain campaign, and the National Walk to Work days, and also
local activities. We believe that local activities are valuable
because, unlike the drink drive problem, travel issues tend to
vary in different parts of the country and local initiatives can
be tailored to local conditions. Some of these local initiatives
are included in the best practice examples at the end of this
Another example of an approach which involves
an element of training is the use of consensus building to develop
a project. The aim of consensus building is to ensure that those
with an interest in an activity are able to put forward their
views and that they see or hear what others think and arrive at
a solution based on a fuller knowledge of the problems. Often
in the past, with highway schemes, one or a number of alternatives
were put forward and a "best" scheme was chosen. With
consensus building the starting point is a discussion of the problems
and all those taking part help to develop the solution. At present
the numbers of people who have been involved in this type of approach
are limited and this is an area where some training of professionals
will undoubtedly be required.
PPG13 AND THE
It is undoubtedly the case that very few actions
can be taken to improve conditions for pedestrians unless the
finance is available. If insufficient money is allocated for road
improvements and road maintenance then existing conditions will
It needs to be recognised that there are many
instances where improvements for pedestrians will only be achieved
by diverting vehicular traffic. This may require the construction
of by-passes or other lengths of new road, thus pedestrians will
undoubtedly benefit from many of the road improvements which are
considered to be undertaken primarily for vehicular traffic.
The recent Government announcements about Transport
Plan allocations are welcome. These will undoubtedly enable valuable
improvements to be made to the facilities for pedestrians. We
believe that funding for improvements will be required over a
substantial period (at least 20 years) if all of the potential
work to improve conditions for pedestrians within urban areas
is to be carried out.
We believe that the Government was right not
to set national targets in the document "Encouraging walking".
The targets which were considered wereincreasing the proportion
of journeys made on foot and increasing the average distance walked.
The problems with such targets are:
They are not targets which, if achieved,
will necessarily show benefits for the community (for instance,
increasing the average distance walked may improve fitness levels
but it may also increase the number of road traffic casualties
given that pedestrians are about five time more likely to be injured
per kilometre travelled than a car driver).
Given the different levels of walking
around the country a national measure of walking is likely to
be of little use to individual highway authorities who will be
the main players in improving conditions for pedestrians.
We do see a benefit in encouraging local authorities
to set local targets for specific journey types, such as journeys
to school, and perhaps for aspects of footway condition such as
cleanliness or surface regularity. Such targets could be included
in local authorities best value performance plans.
Local Government contributed to the development
of the Government Paper "Encouraging Walking". It
was initially expected that this would be published as a National
Strategy. At this stage it is difficult to see what new information
might be available to justify the publication of a separate National
Strategy. This approach should be kept under review as new initiatives
may identify sufficient examples of best practice to justify a
National Strategy document to be produced in future years.
Many examples of good practice by local authorities
are contained within the DETR document "Encouraging Walking".
We also expect that local authorities will have made their own
submissions to the inquiry giving examples of their activities.
Some recent actions which we would bring to your attention are:
Consultation and involving people
It has already been emphasised that, in the
future, schemes designed to improve conditions for pedestrians
will need to be developed through consensus building in conjunction
with local people. Other forms of consultation are also appropriate
and need to be developed. A recent MORI survey carried out in
one county council shows that residents are less happy with the
state of the footways in the urban areas than they are about the
state of the carriageways. Such results indicate that the public
would support more maintenance money being spent on footways.
It is suggested that such information should be collected more
widely and further work carried out to identify the reasons for
the higher levels of dissatisfaction. This approach comes within
the "consultation" area of the best value legislation.
Mercia safer Routes Tool Kit document
This document, supported by LARSOA, in intended
as an easy to use reference guide for all those involved in a
safer routes project.
Walking buses in Staffordshire
In February 2000 Staffordshire County Council
commissioned CAST (The Centre for Sustainable Transport) to analyse
the benefits of walking buses. The report produced clearly shows
the health, social and transport benefit of these initiatives.
Staffordshire have subsequently commissioned two Walking Bus Co-ordinators
and have set a target of establishing 50 walking buses by December
CSS (formerly County Surveyors Society)