Memorandum by Sustrans (WTC 12)
"WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES"
Sustrans is a practical charity which seeks
to lessen car dependency and to promote practical alternatives.
Although best known for our successful partnership with the Millennium
Commission in delivering Phase One of the National Cycle Network,
our work on sustainable transport has led us into other subject
Safe Routes to Stations.
Travel choice and modal shift.
We believe there is a major role for walking
in each of these. Such practical projects are positive ways of
encouraging walking. We also believe that a re-appraisal of the
importance of walking as a transport mode is long overdue. Walking
is important not just in its own right but as a health measure,
a means of social cohesion, and a vital link to public transport.
We are dismayed at the general state of the
walking environment. This is an indictment of current transport
priorities and of professional commitment to this mode. Our cluttered
footways, narrow pavements and lack of on-street priority speak
volumes about the neglect of this topic. All too often, a small
pedestrianised area in town centres is an excuse for ignoring
the walker everywhere else.
We are also worried that walking as a transport
mode is once again losing out in priority terms. Despite the very
welcome comments in the 1998 Transport White Paper, the Government's
Ten-Year Transport Plan is heavily skewed in favour of heavy capital
spending on longer journeys. Furthermore, despite years of preparatory
work, the DETR has been unable to publish a National Strategy
Above all, we believe that a new vision for
walking is needed, to put it at the heart of retail vitality,
safe streets and civilised communities.
The basic facts about walking are now better
known than they were. Fortunately, the DETR has ceased its previous
habit of measuring all trips in terms of distancewhich
for years systematically downgraded the importance of walking.
Also, most transport statistics now include journeys of less than
a mile. Again, the previous absence of this (as 80 per cent of
such trips are on foot) did a great dis-service to the pedestrian.
Walking still accounts for 29 per cent of all
journeys, even though overall trip lengths have been increasing.
The 1998 DETR report on "Walking in Great Britain" says
that this trend is "associated with much of the decline in
the total number of walk trips".
Households without cars walk more than those
with, women walk more than men, the 11-15 age group walk more
than any other. Around a quarter of all walk trips are for shopping,
a fifth for social or entertainment. Still over half of all children
5-15 walk to school: this should be considered a vital national
asset on which we must build.
The health case for higher levels of walking
is by now well-known. Half an hour of brisk walking each day is
reckoned to decrease stress, lessen the risk of coronary heart
disease, reduce obesity and improve well-being.
Walking is important for all ages. It can help
the elderly keep mobile and independent, while for children it
increases stamina and general fitness.
Health Improvement Programmes have begun to
support walking and there is undoubtedly great potential here.
However, the great benefit of walking as health is that it can
be a part of normal activity, and one that requires no specialist
clothing or expensive equipment. With the latest alarming trends
about increased levels of obesity, it is clear that the health
"message" is still not getting through.
At present, unattractive conditions mean a continuing
fight from urban areas, especially for families with children.
Traffic speeds and volumes are major disincentives to urban walking.
Reducing both will play a major role in civilising streets and
making walking an attractive alternative to short distance car
journeys. A reversal of this would involve major regeneration
exercises which should restore local facilities, remove through
traffic, and restore streets to local residents. 20 mph should
be the norm for all local urban roads. 10 mph should be the limit
Like all travellers, pedestrians rely on a "mind
map" of their surroundings. But outside their own immediate
neighbourhood they can be almost helpless, especially if they
are visitors or tourists. Urban areas should develop promotional
and diagrammatic maps, showing main origins and destinations,
main walking routes, and distances involved. This would be the
equivalent of existing maps for motorists, cyclists and bus users.
New urban developments should be of a higher
housing density, planned with walking in mind, and have streets
with restricted car access. Meanwhile existing developments need
a fundamental reappraisal of their design and purpose: the recent
Urban White Paper sadly lacked "vision" in this respect.
Firstly, the Government must shrug off its fears
of a "Ministry of Silly Walks" and make a bold announcement
about putting the pedestrian first. A National Walking Strategy,
steered by a National Forum, would go a long way to embedding
this into the policy process.
Secondly, the DETR must monitor Local Transport
Plans for their walking content. Unsatisfactory Plans should be
the subjection of revision, and not be rewarded financially.
Thirdly, there is an immediate and serious need
for the re-training of existing transport professionals, and an
almost complete reappraisal of transport training courses.
Fourthly, the private sector development lobby
mustas a matter of urgencybe brought into the policy
arena, and weaned away from its car-dependent thinking.
Fifth, the DETR's Speed Policy Review must be
developed to create a road hierarchy, with major new emphasis
on lowering speed limits.
At the practical level Sustrans believes the
quickest and most effective progress can be made by tackling types
of trip. Influencing journeys to work can be done by Green Travel
Plans. Trips to school should be tackled by a Safe Routes to School
programme. Safe routes to stations, shops and services can all
follow. Each of these topics offers easy opportunities to spread
the health, environmental and transport reasons for encouraging
Safe Routes to School
Sustrans is a pioneer of this concept, and has
just completed five years of its pilot project. We have undertaken
this work with regard to cycling as well as walking. We are members
of the School Travel Advisory Group. In brief, the key issues
Information to teachers and governors.
Information to parents.
Information to children.
Using the issue of "safety"
to spread wider messages about health, exercise, transport and
Offering practical, effective measures,
such as the "walking bus".
Tackling car-dependency, in particular
car parking at and outside schools.
With up to 20 per cent of morning peak-hour
traffic being school escort trips, such activity offers great
opportunities for reducing congestion and improving health and
accessibility. Currently only 500 out of 24,000 schools in the
UK have been treated. Every school should have some safe routes.
This is an area of huge potential. The "walking bus"
concept has spread like wildfire, and our experience is that just
in-school discussion of the subject produces realand quickresults.
Our project at Wheatfield Primary School in Hertfordshire produced
a 30 per cent increase in walking and concomitant decrease in
Safe Routes to Stations
Sustrans is working in close partnership with
DETR, Railtrack, Train Operators and Local Authorities. Our aim
is to provide good quality walking (and cycling) routes to train
and bus stations. This is crucial if walking is to play its full
role in an integrated transport system. Our aim is to set up 30
pilot projects a year for the next three years.
For reasons of history, some rail stations and
subsequent housing developments have very poor links for pedestrians.
The main problems can be:
(1) Stations cut off by main road eg York,
(2) Population remote from station.
(3) Circuitous route to station.
(4) Population has developed on the side
of the railway away from the station entrance eg Chester, Didcot.
The solutions arerespectivelyto
create a new priority route, to create a new direct route, make
a short route, and have new access to the station from another
side. Such work should feature strongly within Local Transport
But these should just be the starting point.
Pedestrian routes to stations should be high quality and attractive,
with a new priority for walkers, and linked to a town centre "station
entrance". This would have information points, ticket machines
and train monitors. In this way the public should be encouraged
to access stations on foot, thereby decreasing peak hour congestion
and also reducing the pressure for larger and larger station car
We welcome the exploratory work being undertaken
in the UK and the recent wording in the Transport Act to define
and regulate HomeZones. Along with our partners at the Children's
Play Council and Transport 2000, Sustrans is working with the
DETR on its HomeZones pilot programme, from which valuable lessons
Clearly there is much to be learned from the
Dutch and Danish experiences of HomeZone-type street design. In
the UK, however, obstacles often arise in public acceptance, compounded
by a lack of official vision, uncertainty over legal powers (speed
limits, traffic calming, road priorities) and lack of professional
awareness. All these factors need urgent attention.
If only because of resource constraints, a strategy
which pursues the extension of full-blown "HomeZones"
(as they are currently understood) is likely to limit the overall
impact on traffic and walking. We favour a hybrid approach that
is likely to find wider acceptance in existing communities, combining
the most cost-effective features of HomeZones with traffic-calming,
restrictions and 20 mph limits. However, new housing developments
should have HomeZones built in as standard.
We are also about to start working with the
New Opportunities Fund to give the pedestrian a new deal in creating
safe and attractive open spaces, and easy access to these. There
are important issues of social inclusion and individual child
mobility to be addressed here. We are also drawing on our extensive
past work involving public art and sculpture, to create interesting
features and a sense of community ownership.
There is a surprising amount of good practice
within the UK, but it tends to be piecemeal, and often lost under
other headings such as "traffic management" or "traffic
calming". Some of the main issues are dealt with by the DETR's
brief "Walking Bibliography" (May 2000) or the Pedestrian
Association's "Taking the Strategy Step". There are
also important examples of urban good practice emerging from the
DETR sponsored "Clear Zones" programme.
Some of the most interesting and accessible
material is contained within "Small Steps, Giant Leaps".
Transport 2000's review of its Feet First project. Among good
examples given are:
Sheffield: some of the earliest pro-walking
Hampshire: strategies which give
detail on physical design of pedestrian routes.
Hertfordshire: travel awareness works.
York: has developed a "road-user
hierarchy", putting pedestrians on top.
Leicester: neighbourhood-wide traffic
Worcester: health promotion of "Walk
for Your Life".
This report looks at perceived barriers to walking,
headed by lack of funding, lack of Council powers, and perceived
conflict with other Council policies. Seven key measures to increase
Provide pedestrian networks.
Minimise impact of the car.
Integrate with land use planning.
Tidy up the pedestrian environment.
Integrate with transport planning.
Put pedestrian issues into wider
There is much Continental experience, little
of which seems to gain currency here. Nor do European Commission
studies, such as ADONIS (Analysis and Development of New Insight
into Substitution of short car trips by cycling and walking).
This comprises four weighty volumes, of which we refer only to
one, "Best practice to promote cycling and walking".
This is full of practical and innovative examples
of good practice, some of which have significant implications
for the UK. Among these are:
Danish Children's Traffic Club.
Examples of Pedestrian Plans from
Geneva, The Hague and Middleburg (Netherlands).
Environmentally Adapted Through Roads
Routes for disabled people (Copenhagen).
Access controls for motorised traffic
Increased pedestrian priority at
traffic lights, signals and junctions (various).
Few of these seem to have entered discussion
in the UK. Perhaps the reason is the assumption on Page 4, "This
catalogue assumes that a municipality has already allowed sufficient
space for cyclists and pedestrians in its city planning or restructuring".
This one sentence graphically illustrates how far UK thinking
lags behind the normal on mainland Europe.
This report contains a very useful grid showing
modal share in a number of Continental cities. In some, pedestrians
and cyclists already outnumber car drivers, as follows:
||Bike Plus Foot
It is clear from this that sustained planning for non-motorised
modes can achieve results and bring about modal change.
"Developing a Strategy for Walking"
We commend this discussion paper produced by the Walking
Steering Group, as part of its preparatory work for what was hoped
would be a national strategy for walking. The fact that it was
produced over four years ago (December 1996) illustrates the general
lack of progress.
The report contains an extensive reference section, and is
worth studying for this alone. It also contains sound comments
about the value of walking as social interactionan under-valued
element which helps keep communities togetherand on the
dominance of motorised transport.
Although this is only "advice to local authorities",
we commend this as a first step. It has a useful list (pages 12-13)
of potential partners in promoting walking. The Select Committee
may wish to check how many are actually involved in the process.
There are also valuable Checklists on:
Developing a strategic approach.
The local walking environment.
Recommendation of the advisory groups.
The "Summary table of actions" is helpful, as are
the sections on "Travel for Education and Employment",
"Reallocating Road Space", "Road Safety" and
"Crime and Fear of Crime" Para 3.42 states "pavement
falls bring ten times as many people into accident and emergency
departments as are injured in road traffic accidents".
We also welcome the section on "pedestrianisation and
vehicle restricted areas". This highlights the problems that
total pedestrianisation can bring for the disabled, cyclists,
buses and deliveries. Sustrans strongly supports the statement
in 3.15 that "targeted restrictions on vehicles can be a
better solution than a simple ban".
Annex A contains useful examples of good practice and it
lists some key areas, as follows:
Public art and planting;
Local authority policy statements;
Minor engineering schemes;
Safe Routes to School projects;
Prevention of pavement parking.
1. Conflict with Cyclists
Sustrans' paths have been built for unsegregated shared use,
and this has mostly worked well. Indeed, in urban areas the majority
of National Cycle Network users are often pedestrians. Elsewhere
conflict appears to be of three types:
In pedestrianised areas.
On shared use facilities.
Illegal cycle use of the footway.
We feel that "24 hour" pedestrianisation schemes
are often inappropriate. They cause problems for buses, taxis,
shop deliveries and cyclists. We prefer either traffic-calmed
town centres, such as Leicester, or control by time. York's very
successful "foot-streets" ban cyclists and other road
users only between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm on week-days, and less
Many "shared-use" conversions have been done on
the cheap, are poorly designed and are often a means of removing
cyclists from the carriageway. Adherence to the principles of
the Transport White Paperin particular about reallocation
of road space in favour of cyclists and walkerscould solve
some of these issues.
Likewise, many cyclists use the footway because of non-existent
provision on the road. They also use it because of the hazards
and annoyance of an unfriendly environment which includes large
roundabouts, lack of crossing facilities, lack of cycle route
continuity, and too many one-way streets. Parts of the Continent
have made nearly all urban streets two-way for cycling, without
increasing danger and greatly facilitating the convenience of
2. Links with Cyclists
However, the two non-motorised modes do have a deal in common.
Both have suffered disproportionately from professional and policy
decisions, a lack of funding, the volume and speed of motorised
traffic, and general loss of priority on the highway. There are
numerous examplessuch as signalised crossings of main roadwhere
joint provision of facilities is practical and cost effective.
Funding for walking (and cycling) has been inadequate in
the UK for decades. It is only within recent years that walking
has been given a place within Transport Policies and Programmes
and now Local Transport Plans. Most local authority capital spending
came under the all too clearly entitled "Minor Works".
This was axed at the end of the Conservative administration and
not immediately restored by the present Government.
During the last 18 months of the new LTP process there has
been much greater encouragement for walking, and the recent substantial
increase in funding for Local Transport is most welcome. However,
the block allocation system means it is very difficult to "track"
spending on walking; we feel mechanisms should be introduced to
4. Rural Areas
Walking in rural areas must not be forgotten. Many villages
are ideal for walking, but narrow pavement widths (or none) and
inappropriate vehicle speeds often make this threatening. The
same is true for country roads, though recent proposals by the
Government for Quiet Lanes are most welcome. We believe that the
public footpath network needs to be joined up to make a truly
national network. This is one of a number of key transport issues
that should consider the needs of an ageing population.
We also welcome those elements of the Rural White Paper which
underline the importance of keeping local facilities. The disappearance
of rural shops, sub-post offices, schools, banks, pubs and health
facilities is both a symptom and a cause of the decline in walking
for utility trips. There are lessons here also for urban areas,
and the DETR should combine with other Departments in drawing
up some form of local accessibility criteria.
5. Individualised Marketing
Sustrans believes that more people would walk for entire
or part journeys if they were made more aware of the main transport
opportunities. Accordingly, we are building on the pilot projects
of "Individualised Marketing" in Western Australia by
going into partnership with SocialData, to explore similar work
in this country. Past work has achieved a 22 per cent increase
in walking and a 12 per cent rise in bus use within twelve months.
We also believe walking should be given a stronger and more
positive profile within campaigns such as "Travel Wise"
and "Are you doing your bit?"
1. Measurement of "Safe Cars"
There is a great amount of publicity on this topic, but the
safety of those external to the vehicle is never mentioned
thereby giving a false overall picture. Please also see (2) below.
2. The "Pedestrian-Friendly" Car
Official literature has for years promised progress on vehicle
design, notably so that cars colliding with pedestrians do not
"knee-cap" them and then hurt them on the bonnet. Little
seems to have transpired. Perhaps the Committee could make enquiries
of its own.
3. Footway Repairs
Local authorities seem as far away as ever from keeping footways
in a good state of repair. Currently they still spend more on
claims for compensation than on maintenance: this cannot be sensible.
Signage of pavements is mostly for the motorist, but causes an
obstruction for the pedestrian.
4. "Stranger Danger"
Media hysteria over "stranger danger" is enormously
unhelpful to any moves to promote walking. Children are fifty
times more at risk from traffic than from perverts. Some pro-walking,
anti-speeding campaigns in the popular media would be most useful.
5. Personal Security
Similar concerns about "Violent Britain" also cause
serious problems. These act as deterrents in particular to the
elderly and to women. As they withdraw, the street appears less
friendly than ever, creating a self-fulfilling downward spiral.
6. Retailers' Ignorance
It is probably lack of an official lead which causes the
retail community to have so many mis-perceptions about the value
of pedestrians (and bus users) as customers. Attempts at restraining
traffic and improving access on foot are almost universally met
with howls of protest and badly-informed opposition.
7. Developers' Ignorance
Many powerful players in the development world seem not to
have heard about sustainability. Their continuing insistence on
unrealistically high levels of car-parking and motoried access
can be major problems in creating new possibilities for pedestrians.
To maximise the potential of Green Travel Plans, employers and
developers must create conditions that are positive for walking,
across their local catchment area.
8. Signalised Junctions Timing
All such junctions should have pedestrian phases, and these
should work on demand and not to time allocation.
9. Pedestrian Crossing Criteria
There must be relaxed amd made far more flexible, so as to
make it easier to implement crossings where needed by the local
community. We need to look again at the importance of zebra crossings,
as these give people priority over traffic.
10. Car-Free Areas
We are making slow progress with these in the UK. They offer
potentially enormous benefits in terms of brown-field development,
regeneration, and traffic reduction.
11. Real Road Safety
Our national approach, though changing, is still based around
the idea that "pedestrians should keep out of the way of
cars". This probably explains our poor safety record, particularly
for child pedestriansstill acknowledged to be among the
worst in western Europe.
Moreover, little consideration seems to be given to the role
of powered two-wheelers, light vans, buses and heavy lorries in
their very high fatality rate for pedestrians. This is a much
neglected area. We are alarmed at pressure for greater use of
motor-cycles in urban areas, where their mass, speed and acceleration
make them particularly unsuitable. Sustrans opposes suggestions
that PTWs should be allowed into bus lanes or advanced stop lines.
There are also wider legal and cultural issues to be addressed.
Fortunately the Government has just gone out to consultation on
the vexed issue of Road Traffic Penalties. We hope that the result
of this will mean that death, threat and injury on the road will
be taken as seriously as in other walks of life.
Sustrans welcomes this inquiry. We recommend that there should
be a National Walking Strategy and a National Walking Forum. The
latter must be properly resourced, with the staff and status to
drive the Strategy forward. We are open-minded about whether targets
should be set for an increase in walking by itself or as part
of integrated journeys which help reduce overall car dependency.
However, clear monitoring of walking's progress by the DETR is
There are by now many design and policy measures of proven
worth to advance the cause of walking: they simply need funding
and leadership by central Government. In particular, the DETR
should bring forward examples of excellence as soon as possible,
recording how measures have improved or extended the popularity
Above all, walking needs a new "vision". Each town
should have its own "grand avenue", tree lined, safe
and visually attractive. Major squares and streets should have
pedestrian priority, and be transformed into centres of the urban
Local neighbourhoods should have their own distinctive "gateways"
to re-designed, slow-speed, pedestrian-friendly streets. Walking
should be made the first choice mode wherever possible for journeys
to work, shops, schools and stations. At the same time design
and policy links to bus/rail/train users, cyclists and the disabled
should be made. Walking is the mark of the civilised cityit
is healhty, equitable and environmental. It is time to stride