Memorandum by the Institution of Highways
& Transportation (WTC 05)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
1. The Institution of Highways & Transportation
(IHT) welcomes the Committee's inquiry into this important subject
and is grateful for the opportunity to submit evidence.
2. The IHT represents over 10,000 professionals
working in highways and transportation. It develops and advances
professional excellence as one of the leading learned societies
on urban and regional transport and infrastructure issues. The
IHT has been particularly active in promoting and sharing good
practice concerned with walking. In particular, the Committee
is urged to pay special attention to "Guidelines for Providing
for Journeys on Foot" (IHT, 2000). A complimentary copy
is enclosed with the hard copy of this contribution. Local authorities,
consultants and developers have bought copies.
3. The IHT is presently preparing a publication
"People-Friendly Town Centres: Guidelines for Planning,
Design and Management", dealing with the creation and
enhancement of safe and attractive town centres for pedestrians.
Due for publication in spring 2001, it will replace the IHT's
1989 Guidelines on "Pedestrianisation". An interim
summary could be made available to the Committee if required.
4. This contribution follows the format
set out in the bullet points used in the Press Notice.
5. The economic and social well-being of
our local centres, towns and cities depends upon the people who
use them for shopping, leisure, living and employment. For the
businesses and attractions situated in urban areas, access is
about who is attracted in what numbers. It is largely a quantitative
thingnumbers of visitors with money to spend and "pedestrian
6. However, from the point of view of shoppers,
visitors, residents and workers, access is about the qualities
of the journey to reach town centres and local centres (from residential
areas, car parks and public transport facilities) and the quality
of the environment they find once there.
7. Quantity and quality are linked. The
better the quality of access, the greater the quantity of access
that is encouraged. But, conversely, the greater the quantity
of access, particularly by motorised modes, the greater is the
threat to quality. Practical and positive measures to assist pedestrians
can be seen as achieving a sustainable balance between quality
and quantity. They provide for the most inclusive and least environmentally
damaging form of accesswalkingwhere human activity
is often at its most concentrated in our urban centres, and where
concerns about the adverse impacts of road traffic, congestion,
and pedestrian-vehicle conflict are often greatest.
8. Promoting and enhancing the pedestrian
environment has a major role in securing much needed urban regeneration
and renaissance. The primary aim of urban renaissance must be
to create people-friendly urban areas and improve their quality,
environment, amenity, viability and vitality. The creation of
safe and attractive pedestrian environments in our towns and cities
is a necessary condition for success and is central to improving
the viability, vitality and amenity of our urban areas for shoppers,
visitors, workers and residents alike. This includes encouraging
walking to local centres, community facilities, schools, employment
areas and the like. There is an important health dimension too.
Medical evidence indicates that regular walking contributes to
reduced heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon cancer, obesity
and depression. Walking is about more than just transportit
can make an important contribution to healthy living and general
The Importance of Walking
9. Firstly, some statistics. Walking accounts
for a quarter of all journeys and four fifths of journeys less
than one mile. Around half of all education journeys, one third
of all shopping journeys, a quarter of social/entertainment journeys
and one eighth of all commuter journeys are made on foot. Walking
is the main form of access to public transport services. The average
person walks just under 200 miles per year on public roads (IHT
2000, page 11). We are all pedestrians at some time, whether or
not we own or use a car, thus encouraging walking is good for
social inclusion. Furthermore, pedestrians are not just people
travelling by foot. They are employers, employees, shoppers, customers
and visitors, all of whom contribute to the vitality of an urban
The Decline in Walking
10. Despite the importance of walking, the
amount of walking has declined. In the 20 years prior to 1995-97,
the number of walk journeys fell by 10 per cent whilst the average
distance walked fell by 24 per cent. This trend has been steepest
over the last 10 years and has occurred despiteor perhaps
because ofthe fact that the average person's total travel
mileage has increased by 38 per cent over this same period (IHT,
2000, page 13). The decline has been most notable amongst children;
this must be of particular concern given the links between physical
activity and the acknowledged decreasing fitness levels amongst
Obstacles to Walking
11. There are many real or perceived deterrents
to walking. Amongst the most important are:
Land use patterns that are unsuited
Unpleasant pedestrian environments.
Poor design of access to developments.
Access to a car, and perceived cost
of its use.
Danger to vehicular traffic.
Personal security fears.
Inconvenient pedestrian facilities.
12. These issues are examined further in
IHT 2000, page 42.
13. There are a number of factors that influence
the amount of walking. Pedestrian Review is an approach that can
help to examine existing conditions in a systematic way. Pedestrian
Audit can help with the examination of planned arrangements (ie
associated with new development or infrastructure). It is important
that these approaches are adopted and applied comprehensively
and systematically by local highway authorities to improve the
pedestrian environment (further details are provided in IHT, 2000
pages 55ff and 71ff).
14. "Encouraging walking: advice to
local authorities" (DETR, 2000a) recommends using the "Five
Cs" as a checklist to assess the overall quality of the existing
environment for walking: Is the walking environment
15. Other important factors affecting
the quality of pedestrian routes include IHT, 2000, page 54):
Necessary conditions for success
16. People-friendly town centres can only
be achieved through good design, imaginative management, persuasive
promotion, efficient maintenance and by understanding the sometimes-conflicting
needs of everyone likely to be affected.
17. City squares, pedestrianisation (and
pedestrian priority), Home Zones, measures to restrain traffic,
speed management, harmonisation of walking and public transport
and improved safety and security all have important roles to
play in a local walking strategy. The precise approach to be adopted
in particular situations will depend on local circumstances and
needsthis can be determined through Pedestrian Review and
Pedestrian Audit techniques. However, humanising our urban centres
must be at the heart of any intervention.
18. Encouraging walking contributes to wider
transport, environmental and health objectives through mechanisms
Health improvement plans.
Traffic reduction strategies.
Air quality management plans.
Safer routes to schools.
19. "Reinventing the wheel" is
not a worthwhile occupation. Progress comes from knowledge and
experience. Developing, promoting and sharing good practicefrom
the UK and elsewhereis central to implementing successful
measures on the ground. The technical meetings of the IHT's local
branch network are one means of exchanging good practice.
20. The IHT is at the forefront of promoting
good practice and in developing practical guidelines for practitioners.
The DETRand othersoften sponsor the IHT's work in
this area. The Committee should recognise the value of this work
and urge the DETR, and other relevant Government agencies, to
continue to support the production of independent and practical
advice on good practice.
21. More attention should be given to monitoring
the impacts of new initiatives. The DETR needs to be firmer in
requiring local authorities to record outputs and outcomes so
that good practice can be benchmarked and exchanged more effectively.
This is central to the best value approach, but there is scope
for improved performance.
22. The IHT is concerned about the constraints
on implementing the Ten-Year Transport Plan presented by a shortage
of skilled practitioners. This is particularly true in terms of
providing for vulnerable groups, notably walking and cycling.
But the skills issue does not end there. There is also a need
to improve pedestrian (particularly children) and driver skills
and training in the general population.
23. The IHT, in partnership with others,
has developed a framework for vocational qualifications in the
transport field. These measure and reward the competence and understanding
of staff in the work place. The planning, design, implementation
and maintenance of measures to encourage walking are embraced
within the occupational standards that underpin these vocational
qualifications (N/SVQs) at levels 3 and 4. The DETR and Highways
Agency should be more proactive in supporting qualifications (particularly
when used in conjunction with academic courses) and favour clients/contractors
who use staff that can demonstrate their practical competence.
24. The IHT concurs with the recommendations
of the DETR's Joint Cycling/Walking Professional Training and
Information Group, namely:
ensuring that transport professionals
have a proper understanding of the needs of pedestrians;
that the transportation N/SVQs could
provide the basis for improving training in this field;
too little emphasis is given to walking
issues by local authorities; and
that professionals require better
understanding of the most appropriate technical guidance.
25. Many groups, including IHT, were disappointed
that the Government issued "advice to local authorities"
rather than a National Walking Strategy. Encouraging walkingand
making it safer and more convenientis unquestionably a
good thing. It is good for people, good for communities (so long
as exposure to risk can be controlled) and an essential part of
most journeys. However, the IHT is concerned thatbecause
of political tensions associated with being perceived as "anti-car"walking
is not receiving the priority and encouragement it deserves. It
is not being positively championed by Government. The Government
must be urged to show greater purpose, direction and leadership
in encouraging walking.
26. As it stands, it is difficult to determine
the priority given to walking in local authorities' Local Transport
Plans (LTP). The DETR should encourage local authorities to be
explicit in terms of the expenditure allocated to walking, and
the outcomes derived, in the annual progress reports as part of
the LTP process. Additionally, the DETR should require those local
authorities that have not prepared an acceptable local walking
strategy to do so within the next 12 months. Straightforward advice
about how best to produce these is available in a traffic advisory
leaflet from the DETR.
27. The status and priority of walking in
the planning process must be increased. This should be properly
reflected in legislation, planning policy guidance and investment
programmes, particularly those concerned with casualty reduction,
speed management, responsible driver behaviour, and creating compact,
people-friendly land-use patterns and designs. With respect to
the latter point, the DETR should issue revised PPG 13 as soon
as possible and ensure that local authorities act in accordance
with it. Pedestrians feature significantly in the nation's road
casualty figuresin particular, the child pedestrian record
is poor (DETR, 2000b, page 10). Pedestrian training for children
(by parents and schools) has an important contribution to make
but should not reduce the onus on motorists to drive considerably
28. While there is a rightful place for
significant and sustained investment in major transport schemes,
money must also be earmarked for smaller scale schemes to pave
the way for improvements in the pedestrian environment. A balanced
and integrated approach is required. This means re-orientating
priorities and freeing up road space for vulnerable users through
a range measuresboth "carrot" and "stick".
But clear priorities are needed. As a guide, where choices are
to be made, particularly in LTPs, the following priorities should
be adopted when developing transport and land use strategies,
and in targeting investment:
3. Public transport passengers.
4. Deliveries to business.
5. Other business traffic
6. Shoppers and other visitors By Car
A Commitment to Maintenance
29. Well-maintained highways (including
footways), signing, road markings and street lighting are essential
for all highway users. Encouraging walking demands proper maintenance
of existing and new assets that directly improves walking conditions.
30. The IHT believes that a national walking
strategy would provide greater purpose and direction. It would
strengthen the focus on, and commitment to, practical actions
to improve conditions for pedestrians. In terms of targets, it
is questionable whether existing dataat national and local
levelare sufficiently robust to permit meaningful targets
to be set and monitored. However, targets do serve to focus the
mind on action. The national target for increasing cycling has
stimulated local authorities to research and establish pragmatic
local targets, often in conjunction with local groups, that have
been helpful in focusing and co-ordinating action. Accordingly,
if the data constraints can be overcome, the IHT would support
the introduction of challenging, measurable and achievable targets
for encouraging walking based on modal shift rather than absolute
levels of walking.
An Ageing Population
31. Demographic change means that there
will be an "age shift" over the next 30 years with many
more older people remaining active for much longer. Their particular
needs, and fragility, should not be overlooked. The Committee
could usefully take this opportunity to consider the needs of
an ageing population in the longer term, say, 30 years hence.
Tackling today's problems tomorrow is not a sound approach. We
must tackle tomorrow's problems today.
Action by Individuals
32. Last, but by no means least, it is also
important to positively promote the benefits of, and encourage,
walking as part of wider initiatives to raise the awareness of
transport users about the consequences of their travel choices,
both positive and negative.
33. The IHT would welcome the opportunity
to present oral evidence if the Committee would find it of assistance
in conducting its inquiry.
1. Guidelines for Providing for Journeys
on Foot, IHT, 2000.
2. Encouraging walking: advice to local
authorities, DETR, 2000a.
3. Tomorrow's RoadsSafer for Everyone:
The Government's road safety strategy and casualty reduction targets
for 2010, DETR, 2000b.