Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
WEDNESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2001
180. My own local authority, Nuneaton and Bedford,
are very good at promoting leisure walks within our urban area,
how would they promote people going to work by foot or going shopping
by foot? Or should it not be up to them?
(Mr Almond) In Leicester, the Belgrave Corridor, which
is an interesting project I recommend to you, is trying to do
that by redesigning the areas to making walking to work, walking
to shops, far easier than normal, making traffic-calming compulsory
in the area and reducing the amount of traffic.
181. But how do you get people to do it? I went
for a walk on Monday, from Euston to this place, and I remember
it, there was a certain shortage of tubes, but I would not do
that every week.
(Mr Almond) No, but in the Belgrave Corridor what
they are trying to do is make it the easy option, because going
by car is extremely difficult. So by making those areas easily
accessible in terms of shopping and in terms of recreation like
theatre and going to work, it is much more amenable and is changing
182. But it is not just walking, I would happily
walk to the shops but who is going to carry my shopping back?
This is a serious point. If I go once a week to do some shopping,
rushing in wherever I happen to beno brand loyalty about
me - I pile all sorts of stuff in, I am a very bad shopper because
I am always in a rush, I pile it into boxes and put it into some
form of wheeled transport because I do not want to carry it.
(Mr Robinson) I do not think any of these problems
are insurmountable, they just need thinking about and need a will
to solve them. For that particular problem, an increasing number
of retailers are offering delivery so you can walk in, leave your
stuff and they will bring it for you later. It involves the internal
combustion engine but at least it is one van going to lots of
houses and that is an improvement. The other problems which are
mentioned are surmountable but they need commitment and money
to be spent to do it. I would emphasise the point, from our Green
Ways pilots, that you have to make the environmental changes to
raise the ante so that the walker feels safer and finds walking
appealing and does not feel in danger from traffic, and then you
have to promote and give information and show these opportunities
are available. In our Green Ways experiments, that has been shown
to be effective.
183. To what extent have you spoken to local
authorities on the maintenance and good practice of footways to
minimise trips and falls? There is an estimated 600,000 elderly
people annually who are hospitalised through trips. What have
you as a health profession been saying to local authorities about
(Mr Ashcroft) Local authorities have been saying that
their maintenance budgets for very small-scale works, like making
pavement slabs flat so people do not trip up, have been reduced
significantly over the years, but I understand through the new
local transport plans there is more money now released for this
very small-scale work which does make a difference, you are right,
between whether it is safe to walk on the street or not. We are
in touch with and do work very closely with local authorities.
Coming back to an earlier point, you suggested there may be some
risk, if we encourage walking, that more people would die through
being put on the roads than are saved through better health. Can
I give you this statistic: about 3,000 people a year die on the
roads, about 50,000 people die of heart disease because they are
inactive. So that is the goal. That is the overall challenge.
There is a huge potential there, and the relative accident risks
are very small in comparison.
184. Is this not due to affluence? Many years
ago, when heart disease was at a lower proportion than it is now,
people did not have motor vehicles because they could not afford
(Mr Ashcroft) That is right.
185. It is a lifestyle change, is it not, which
has brought this thing round?
(Mr Ashcroft) That is one of the reasons. We are a
very sedentary nation now, things are done for us by machines,
we do not have to walk, that is why heart disease is the biggest
killer in the UK because of the way we live our lives. We are
aiming to challenge that culture and to bring about a situation
where people bring walking back into their daily lives. It is
not pie-in-the-sky. If I can give you an analogy, a generation
ago who would have thought that smoking would be banned in public
places, who would have thought that advertising for smoking would
be banned, who would have thought that only a quarter of the population
would smoke? That is a cultural change that we have seen. The
same can happen through encouraging walking, making it easier
for people to walk. We can reverse that trend if we have that
186. I am going to have to stop you at that
point. As far as the elderly are concerned, how important is it
when they are walking that there are places for them to sit down?
(Mr Ashcroft) I think it is very important. It is
an excellent idea to give people opportunities to rest on their
travels. There have been some good ideas recently raised about
the importance of benches and seats along walkways and pavements
in towns and in parks, to make it encouraging and easier for elderly
people to walk.
(Mr Robinson) Teenagers like them too.
(Ms Hamer) It just highlights that the most important
point around the work which is done to support walking is that
the poorest sectors of society are the people who have the most
problems with walking and the experience of being on the streets.
Although in some respects it is the more affluent people who have
problems, anything we do to encourage walking will benefit people
who are in the most deprived places at the moment, and that includes
vulnerable people like the elderly.
Chairman: On that note, thank you very much
for your evidence.