Memorandum by Transport 2000 (WTC 36)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
Walking is the most sustainable form of transport,
and an essential component of journeys by public transport. Walking
is also not just a transport issue; many street based activities
depend on people being on footfor example shopping, delivering
the post, or being neighbourly. However the growth in car ownership
and the consequent volume and speed of traffic, coupled with increased
distances to travel to shops, workplaces, schools and hospitals,
have lead to a decline in walking activity in Britain.
This has serious consequences. For the individual,
it may mean poorer health and reduced fitness, higher transport
costs, mobility restrictions for non drivers, and less independence.
For society, it means more congestion, more pollution, more social
isolation, higher health and social care costs, and unattractive
and dangerous streets.
Walking has low status: people who need, or
choose to, walk are treated as third class citizens or even ignored.
Walking is an activity which is socially inclusive, costs nothing,
is healthy, and is very enjoyable, and we should be encouraging
and rewarding those who already depend on this way of getting
The contribution of walking to the Urban Renaissance,
healthy living and reducing dependency on cars
A good quality attractive walking environment
is essential to persuade people to leave their homes on foot.
Walking in cities is not just a transport mode, people also like
to stay outdoors to socialise, watch what is going on, play with
friends. A city where people are out and about on foot is a far
more attractive place to live than one where people stay indoors
or inside their cars (refs 1, 2, 3).
Walking has been described as "perfect
exercise", and has many advantages over other forms of exercise
and sport as it costs nothing, and is available at the front door
and to everyone irrespective of age, gender or race. The proportion
of the British population who are overweight has doubled in the
decade to 1995. Even more worrying, the proportions of children
not taking enough exercise for healthy growth is also increasing
The current targets for improving the nation's
health are given under four headings: coronary heart disease and
stroke; cancer; accidents and mental health (5). Encouraging people
to walk more would help to meet the targets, leading to a healthier
population and workforce, and eventually reducing the burden on
health services. Walking for health is now widely encouraged through
the introduction of community led Health Walks, where unfit people
can be "prescribed" walks of graded standards to gradually
build up their fitness (6).
Reducing dependency on cars:
We believe that increased walking could help
reduce car use in several respects. First, a proportion of journeys
currently made by car are short enough that they could be made
by foot (8 per cent of car trips are less than a mile, and 25
per cent of car trips are less than two miles) (7).
Second, there has been a trend over the last
twenty years for short trips to be replaced by longer ones, as
people travel further to shops, schools and work. The proportion
of trips less than two miles long fell by 9 per cent, and the
proportion between five and 25 miles long rose by 8 per cent,
between 1978/79 and 1997/99. Inevitably, short walkable trips
are being replaced by car trips as distance increases (8). If
these trends could be reversed, many car trips might again become
possible to make on foot.
Third, walking has an important role as part
of public transport trips. If walking to and from the bus stop
or rail station feels safe and pleasant, it is more likely that
people will choose to use public transport for longer journeys
The reasons for the decline in walking and the
main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the number
of journeys made on foot
The decline in walking has been apparent in
national statistics for over 20 years, and is probably a consequence
of three inter-related changes. First, increasing car ownership
means that people now have the option to drive instead of walking,
and once they have acquired a car, its use for short journeys
is perceived to be cheap (despite recent campaigns about high
Second, increased traffic and the greater speeds
of which cars are now capable have discouraged people from walking.
Most roads are now dominated by the needs of vehicles, for example
signs on posts, road widenings, traffic lights and parked vehicles.
Greater traffic speeds mean parents are increasingly reluctant
to allow their children to walk to school or to make other trips
on foot (10), and as a result escort education trips have increased
by over a half since 1985/86. Other vulnerable road users, including
older people, may also be more reluctant to walk, often deterred
by the difficulty of crossing roads (11). Old people with visual
handicap often do not go out at all, deterred by the uncertain
street environment; a recent survey for the DSS found that a quarter
of disabled people had not been out shopping, visiting friends
or any other excursion in the last four weeks (12).
Third, there has been a steady decline of local
facilities resulting from centralisation or amalgamation of amenities
such as libraries, hospitals and schools; the closure of local
shops, post offices and banks; and the rapid growth of large scale
shopping centres and supermarkets, replacing local shops, and
resulting in longer journeys less easily made on foot. One study
in Liss, Hampshire, found that closure of the three banks in the
small town generated a million extra miles of travel each year,
70 per cent by car, as residents were forced to make a round trip
of 10 miles every time they wished to visit the bank (13). Changes
in employment and more centralised siting of workplaces have also
led to people working much further from home, and hence unable
to walk to work.
What should be done to promote walking
Walking as the most sustainable transport mode,
and the cheapest to provide for, must be at the top of the transport
hierarchy in towns and cities, not the bottom. The compactness
of urban areas should make walking the obvious way to get about.
York has successfully put pedestrians first, and other British
authorities have been following this example.
We need to civilise our streetsreduce
or remove traffic, lower traffic speeds, enforce traffic law (both
on carriageway and on pavements), control and reduce parking,
provide better cycling facilities (on the road, not the pavement),
maintain the walking space better make it more attractive with
trees, seats, etc.
Many residential areas could become home zones.
Nine pilot home zones are being developed in England and Wales,
but funding needs to be increased as there is considerable demand.
Although the Transport Act 2000 was amended to encourage the introduction
of home zones, it does not go far enough: we would have liked
a change in the law to give pedestrians and cyclists precedence
in home zones (as is the case in all continental home zones).
We also believe that speeds of 20 mph are too high in such areas
(the Dutch rule is that cars must travel at no more than a walking
pace in a home zone, although in practice this is interpreted
as about 10mph). Recent research for DETR (14) showed that implementation
of 20 mph zones in residential areas has had little effect on
encouraging walking. They commented: "To significantly change
the function of the street, more stringent measures, such as road
closure or changing the nature of the road to reduce speeds to
10 mph or less, are needed. Home zones may be more appropriate
to change the function of the street."
Although wider introduction of Dutch-quality
home zones could encourage people to make more use of residential
streets for walking, cycling, talking with neighbours and so on,
changes are also needed on other roads in urban areas to encourage
people to walk for short journeys to schools and shops. We believe
that the normal urban speed limit should be 20 mph, not 30 mph,
as at present, with exceptions on those main roads where there
is less activity on foot. Experience in European cities shows
that lower speed limits on main roads reduce casualties, and also
have the effect of reducing drivers' speeds on nearby residential
roads. For example, large parts of the town of Buxtehude in Germany
have been given over to 30kph (20 mph) speed limits. Casualties
in these areas have fallen by 60 per cent, and the number of people
walking has risen by 17 per cent (15).
We strongly support the government's move to
improve enforcement of speed limits through wider use of speed
cameras and hypothecation of speeding fines. Early evidence from
the pilot areas suggests that wider use of speed cameras is very
effective in deterring speeding and reducing casualties, and that
if the pilot programme were rolled out across the country it might
save around 750 deaths and serious injuries a year. As well as
the obvious benefits in lives saved we believe such an enforcement
programme would help create a safer environment in which people
were more likely to walk.
Safe routes to school schemes will also encourage
walking. To be effective, these should combine changes to the
infrastructure of the street (safe crossings, traffic calming,
20 mph zones) with other measures such as walking buses (rotas
of parents escorting groups of children to school). We would like
to see safe routes to schools programmes being rolled out much
more quickly than at present: in York the city council intends
that every one of its 72 schools will be surrounded by a 20 mph
zone within six years, but elsewhere progress is comparatively
Councils and public transport operators together
need to review and improve the walking catchment area around all
stations and bus stops, to reduce the deterrent effect of the
walk to the bus stop or station; simultaneously they need to improve
waiting facilities at these stations and bus stops, with shelter,
lighting, seating, information and maps.
Much better local maps are needed, showing walking
connections (paths, alleyways, short cuts on foot eg through estates)
as well as the roads as at present. Maps should show crossings,
which roads are walkable eg which can't be crossedbarriers,
etc, or have no pavements, entry points to large sites and buildings.
All urban areas should also have good and consistent signing of
routes on foot with distances and/or timesthis should be
of the same standard as that expected by drivers.
Councils need to work with local businesses
and developers to make buildings accessible on foot, street level
frontages attractive to walk past. Owners of car parks need to
review facilities for car owners to walk from cars and for non
car owners to walk to buildings or the street.
Although this inquiry is focussing on walking
in towns and cities, we note that many of the measures identified
above are also important for rural areas. The key issues relating
to walking in these areas are the intimidation caused by speeding
traffic on rural roads which may have no separate pavement, and
the loss of local services which makes it impossible for people
to walk to the shops or bank. We support the government's aim
to introduce 30 mph speed limits in all villages, and moves to
introduce rural "quiet lanes". To have a significant
effect on the proportion of journeys made on foot in rural areas,
these initiatives will need to be widely adopted. We also support
measures in the rural white paper to increase support for local
services in the countryside, including extension of rate relief
and funding to re-establish village services.
What can be learnt from good practice
See replies to other questions.
Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate
skills and training
Our experience suggests that there is a serious
lack of suitable skills and training, not just among transport
professionals, but among others also responsible for the walking
environment, for example planners do not understand the importance
of ensuring access on foot; the police are reluctant to enforce
traffic law that would protect people on foot; councillors make
decisions with major deterrent effects on walk journeys.
Whether all Government Departments, their agencies,
including the Highways Agency, and local authorities are taking
In particular, whether greater priority should
be given to measures to promote walking including a greater share
of the Government budget and the reallocation of road space.
Whether national targets should be set and a
National Strategy published.
Responsibility for implementing many of the
measures needed to encourage walking lies with local authorities.
We think there is a marked difference in the level of commitment
amongst local authorities, with some able to demonstrate an impressive
track record and others showing little evidence of action. We
are concerned that the signals from government to local authorities
in the Ten Year Transport Plan and the local transport settlement
place undue emphasis on capital spending on major infrastructure
projects. We believe this is likely to encourage the less progressive
local authorities to focus more of their energies on developing
proposals for road schemes, and less on measures to civilise their
streets and encourage walking.
Even in those local authorities that are committed
to encouraging walking, the rate of implementation of safe routes
to school, traffic calming and so on is much slower than we would
wish. This is partly because of lack of revenue funding to employ
the necessary staff. We believe government urgently needs to address
the way in which lack of revenue funding is constraining local
authorities' ability to implement these small-scale, labour-and
time-intensive schemes. We also believe that the capital cost
of many of the measures needed is considerable. For example, DETR
estimates the cost of traffic calming all appropriate residential
roads as £3 billion.
We estimate that the cost of creating 6,500
home zones (the same number as in the Netherlands) would be an
additional £1.4 billion, and the cost of providing a safe
route to school for every child would be £2 billion. For
comparison, DETR has allocated £1 billion over the next five
years to local road schemes. However, measures to encourage walking
such as those described represent far greater value for money
that the majority of local road schemes. For example, benefit-cost
ratios for traffic calming schemes are at least 10, around double
the BCR of most road schemes.
We believe that the guidance given to local
authorities in PPG13, Guidance on Local Transport Plans, and the
government paper Encouraging Walking is good, and that the main
problem lies in the slow rate of implementation.
However, we were disappointed at the government's
decision to publish Encouraging Walking as advice to local authorities
rather than as a national strategy, and at the late decision made
by Ministers to exercise national targets to reverse the decline
in walking. The Ten Year Plan now has targets or projections for
increasing all other transport modes, but not walking: it will
be difficult to increase walking under this pressure.
1. Our Towns and Cities: the Future (Urban
White Paper) DETR, 2000.
2. Reclaiming our Cities and Towns David
3. Life between Buildings Jan Gehl,
4. Road Transport and Health British
Medical Association, 1997.
5. Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation
Department of Health, 1999.
6. Thames Valley Health Walks Scheme
British Heart Foundation and Countryside Agency, 1999.
7. National Travel Survey 1997/99 update
DETR, August 2000.
8. Vital Travel Statistics Stephen
9. Personal Security Issues in Pedestrian
Journeys DETR, 1999.
10. One False Move... a study of children's
independent mobility Hillman, Adams and Whitelegg, PSI 1990.
11. Many Roads to Cross Pedestrians
12. Quoted in Night Site, Joint Mobility
Unit and Civic Trust, 1999.
13. Transport Retort, issue 23/3, 2000.
14. Study by Allott and Lomax for DETR,
15. Slower Speeds Initiative (in preparation)