90. It is clear what practical policies should be
followed to facilitate and promote walking. There was considerable
agreement in the evidence we received. We have already described
the key measures which need to be taken and, as we have noted,
many are listed in the DETR's, Encouraging Walking. They
are not impossible to put into practice, and many have been in
a few towns and cities. Unfortunately there seems little prospect
under present policies that they will be widely implemented.
91. Of course, central government is not directly
responsible for the implementation of policies to promote walking.
These are a matter for many organisations including local authorities,
heath and education bodies, the police and public transport operators.
Yet the argument we heard repeatedly was that these bodies look
to the Government for a lead. Without that lead most will not
give a high priority to walking.
92. Amongst those who submitted evidence to this
inquiry there was great dissatisfaction with the way in which
the interests of people on foot were handled by the transport
establishment. Almost every one of a hundred written submissions
to the Committee in one way or another argues that the attention,
action and priority accorded to walking fails to match its importance,
and is inadequate to reverse the longstanding trend of decline.
Not a single witness submitted any justification for the low status
and priority accorded to walking, nor tried to argue that walking
receives adequate attention from Government bodies.
93. The thrust of the evidence was that the message
which has come from the Government over the last two years is
that walking is not a priority. The White Paper of 1998, A
New Deal for Transport, contained fine words about walking
and indicated that a national strategy would be produced. In the
end it was not, and advice to local authorities, Encouraging
Walking, was published in March 2000 instead.
94. It was widely held that in publishing an advice
note rather than a strategy, the Government had diminished the
importance of walking in the eyes of local authorities and other
organisations and professionals. The British Heart Foundation
and the Countryside Agency commented that in publishing Encouraging
Walking in 2000, the Government had missed an opportunity.
They noted: "its low status as guidance for local authorities
rather than being a National Strategy for Government which is
what was needed and indeed what was pledged at its inception".
The joint memorandum concluded:
"We need a clear and
unequivocal commitment from Government to encourage walking which
involves the public, private and voluntary sectors. Without such
leadership it is unlikely that the range of practical actions
needed to promote walking will be unlocked."
The Government's Guidance on Full Local Transport
Plans, also published in March 2000, shows the vapidity of
its approach to walking. It did not insist that local authorities
established walking strategies, but, as the DETR memorandum notes:
"It invited local authorities to include local strategies
for encouraging walking in their LTPs".
95. Subsequently, Transport 2010: The 10 Year
Plan, published in July 2000, appeared to provide further
evidence of the low status of walking.
It is the only mode of transport other than the car for which
there is no target. The Plan provides resources for transport,
but sends the signal that major projects and catering for long
distance travel take priority. In contrast, the promotion of walking
requires numerous small schemes.
96. The low status of walking is also reflected in
the number of senior staff in the DETR who work on walking. We
were told that there are 11 staff responsible for walking and
Only two of these, relatively junior officials with a limited
budget, have responsibility for walking, although this is for
a mode of transport responsible for almost one third of all trips.
We recommend that the DETR ensure that its staffing for this
policy area is commensurate with the importance of walking as
a mode of transport. They will need to publish and monitor a national
strategy, commission research into walking, issue consolidated
guidance on street design, replace existing guidance about guard
railings and staggered crossings, help local authority officers
with preparing walking strategies and ensure that development
plans are consistent with local transport plans. While we
would wish the Government to give higher priority to walking,
there is nothing to prevent local authorities from taking the
initiative themselves. It is time they did so.
97. Questioned about the priority the Government
gave to walking, Lord Macdonald, who is often an eloquent witness
appeared confused and poorly briefed. His view about walking seemed
to be that we all know how to do it and therefore it is irrelevant
to have a policy on it. In response to a question about the shortage
of civil servants in the DETR who worked on walking, the Minister
"I suspect it is about
right... because most of us know how to do it ... I just think
you can therefore take a lot for granted when it comes to walking".
On this basis a large part of the Government machine
could be wound up tomorrow.
98. The proposals in Encouraging Walking
show that some DETR officials know what should be done. However,
as things stand we see little likelihood of progress because Government
has not willed the means to do it. As a result the excellent suggestions
in its publication are likely to remain pious but unfulfilled