Memorandum by Oxford Green Party (WTC
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
Oxford Green Party has campaigned for the rights
of pedestrians for over 12 years, and with our experience in Council
we have gained valuable experience in some of the political barriers
at both councillor and officer level to improving the pedestrian
environment. In this submission, we have followed the order as
suggested in Press Notice 62, dated 2 November 2000.
The contribution of walking to the Urban Renaissance,
healthy living and reducing dependency on cars
1. Urban Renaissance: There is ample evidence
from many cities that cities where people walk are safer, more
lively and more inclusive. Oxford's main shopping street has a
footfall of over 50,000 people per 12 hours. Walking is the most
democratic and inclusive of all forms of transportopen
to 97 per cent of the population. The popularity of urban malls,
with their high quality pedestrian surface and environment, attests
to the fact that where the pedestrian environment is built to
21st century standards, rather than a degraded 19th century standards,
people are happy and willing to walk.
2. Health: There is ample evidence that
people, including children, are getting fatter and less healthy.
The usual suggested remedytaking exercise, such as sports
or jogging, does not fit in with most people's motivation, time
or lifestyles, and in many cases has negative effects in terms
of damage to tendons and muscle wear, and often engenders more
car travel on the way to the sports hall. Regular exercise needs
to be embedded in people's lives. Few jobs are now manually demanding
and urban home life and leisure is to a large extent (unless gardening!)
also without physical exercise, eg with washing machines. That
leaves only the window of opportunity between work/school and
home, so what is needed is to construct society around the use
of physical activity on the way to work or school. There is ample
evidence of the medical benefits of brisk walking (second only
to cycling and swimming) as forms of exercise to sustain physical
health. The costs are measured in trip falls (because of weakened
leg muscles and balance), increased heart disease etc. What is
striking is that medical conferences refer to all these, but the
topic is almost completely absent from transport circles.
3. Reducing dependency on cars: There is
ample evidence that walking reduces the need for short car trips.
There is a need to examine two kinds of journeyswork journeys
and other journeys. In a highly specialised labour market, with
specialised employment skills it is likely that balancing local
employment with population numbers will have only limited effects
in containing travel. The experience of Oxfordshire's policies
is that in the four market towns, housing and jobs are balanced,
but the towns are characterised by very long work journeys, almost
exclusively by car, to the London fringe. We believe that the
Dutch policy of matching employment centres ("mobility profiles"
depending on number of employees and visitors) with different
locations ("accessibility profiles" depending on overall
accessibility by non-car modes) should be followed, along with
an improvement in public transport. This will only have marginal
effects on walking.
In contrast to work journeys, there is little
need to travel beyond the nearest school or shop or leisure centre.
For these journeys, non-car access, mostly walking and cycling,
should become the norm. It is noticeable that in Oxford, where
no location is further than three miles from the centre, 41 per
cent of all car traffic to the centre originates within Oxford.
What is needed is to create really safe and pleasant travel for
walking and cycling and to provide local services. It is interesting
and to be welcomed that the Co-op has recently increased its local
shopping capacity in Oxford, opening or expanding three new supermarkets
in district shopping areas, without any dedicated parking. It
is to be decried that school selection procedures have weakened
the link with local catchment areas, which has been further exacerbated
by the consequent desire to send to the "best" and avoid
the "worst" schools. This process will be made worse
by the proposed reorganisation in Oxford into a two-tier system,
with fewer schools, making it harder for children to walk or cycle
to schoola good example of "non-joined up" thinking.
The reasons for the decline in walking and the
main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the number
of journeys made by foot.
1. Reasons for the decline: This could fill
a book. Important reasons are:
macro-economic trends with the closure
of large centralised industries and the increasing diversification
and specialisation of employment
Counter-urbanisation trends with
increasing wealth, fuelled by first expanded public transport
then more importantly car ownership and use
The historical decline in the cost
of running a car, compared to public transport, along with the
expansion of incomes. The failure of government to include or
tackle the safety and environmental costs of car use.
The increase in car ownership and
car use, which is inversely related to the number of walk journeys.
50 years of planning for increasing
car use, in terms of the huge expansion of the inter-urban routes
and maximisation of capacity and convenience of car use within
The lack of investment in or planning
for the pedestrian environment over the same period.
2. Policy obstacles: The walking environment
is extremely poor. Whereas a huge research literature and weight
of policy guidance requires proper consideration of the travel
comfort and safety of car drivers, even to the extent of minimising
harm to the occupants of illegal and dangerous practices, what
little guidance on walking exists is advisory and is always subservient
to the (very demanding in terms of valuable space) needs of the
car. One recent example in Oxford will demonstrate this: a heavily
used pavement has recently (thankfully) been professionally resurfaced
at great expense, however, where two (never used) college garage
doors abut the pavement, a dropped kerb has been installed. The
resulting crossfall will inconvenience 1000's of pedestrians every
day, and probably make the route impossible for independent wheelchair
use, as well as possibly resulting in slip falls for the elderly,
in order to marginally facilitate the access of a possible vehicle
in the next 10 years!
3. Physical obstacles: Pedestrians, like
all other forms of transport, have their own needs as they move
through planned physical space. Whereas car drivers are enveloped
in a protected, heated cocoon and the road layout has over the
last 50 years increasingly been designed to meet the particular
needs of motorised travel, the urban pedestrian environment is
to a large extent an inheritance of the 19th century, but further
eroded by the huge increase in the volume and speed of motorised
traffic, the incursions of parked vehicles etc. What is needed
are 21st century design service standards that match our (much
heightened) expectations of life in terms of comfort and pleasant
What should be done to promote walking
Ensure that walking is incorporated in local
government institutional thinking and procedures. A notorious
recent example was a promotional leaflet distributed to several
thousand residents by Oxfordshire County Council, showing a pie
chart "how people travel to the city centre", which
excluded pedestrians, when in fact 17 per cent of all journeys
to the centre are on foot. Measures should include:
A walking officer high up and well-paid
in the officer hierarchy, to oversee all local government provision
and policies, and external projects, and to act as a counterweight
to entrenched internal (car) lobbieseg road maintenance
and safety. The research "Stepping Out" by Oxford Brookes
showed how convoluted were pedestrian responsibilities. The existence
of such jobs would also feed back into university transport education
Better pedestrian consultation (with
official pedestrian committees or scrutiny committees). It took
a three-year battle to get a "Pedestrian Sub-Committee"
in Oxford City Council; there are still no means open to the public
of influencing County Council policy.
Mandatory pedestrian audits of all
road "improvements" and maintenance.
Quality pedestrian corridors.
Pedestrian audits of all new significant
planning developments, with minimum pedestrian accessibility standards/modal
share plans, with refusal or commuted payments if these cannot
be reached (to be incorporated in Local Plan/Structure Plan policies
Instigate a programme of pedestrian
audits of all major existing developments, eg schools, hospitals,
universities, businesses, local shopping centres.
Prioritise maintenance of urban pavements,
including clearing of snow and fallen leaves, above that of vehicle
roads. Again there is a bias towards vehicles in that STATS 19
are analysed and vehicle collisions recorded, whereas trip/slip
falls are not recorded, and yet are estimated to cause one million
injuries a year (Age Concern).
Make parking on the pavement illegal
with proper enforcement. In Oxford many pavements are now unusable
by wheelchairs and pedestrian groups because of pavement parking.
In London it is already illegal. The law of obstruction is regarded
as unenforceable by Police authorities (private communication).
Sections 1 and 2 of the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act empower
Highway Authorities to pass Traffic Regulation Orders prohibiting
footway parking, but most lack the political will. In Oxfordshire
the response to a formal motion was a policy of "do nothing".
["It therefore needs to be recognised that in some cases
to do nothing will be the appropriate way forward". (Highways
and Road Safety13 May 99)].
Programme of pedestrian monitoring.
Enforce Air Quality Standards, especially
that NOx hourly rate of 21 ppbmost of Oxford's main inner
urban roads, which are heavily used by pedestrians, exceed this
Set and monitor noise level standards.
Ensure that the physical walking environment
encourages and allows walking. There already exists a body of
guidance (eg IHT Disability and Pedestrian Guidelines) but in
all cases of conflict of interest, other guidance or policies
override these, eg the desire to remove cyclists from the road,
ensure "minimum" vehicle lane widths, avoid traffic
congestion at junctions, allow for residents' parking etc. So
policy and officer priorities need to be changed first, but here
are some important physical measures that are not generally followed,
but need to be:
Continuous uninterrupted networks
of pavements to all major transport destinations from all major
Priority over minor road side junctions
reinforced by raised pavement extensions with Give Way lines put
back before them (not dropped kerbs which fill with water and
do not allow independent wheelchair access, and still mean the
pedestrian is forced to walk into the road)Oxfordshire
County Council has adopted this as a policy, but, for many of
the reasons stated above, it has yet to be implemented anywhere.
Timed priority over all intersections
by light controlled pedestrian crossings.
Reduction of wait times at pelican
crossings. Unfortunately, a proposal to implement a 20 second
vehicle green phase (30 seconds is typical in Oxfordshire) was
defeated because of fears of traffic congestion, even though research
shows it increases "Green Man" compliance by pedestrians
from 60 per cent to 70 per cent with no increase in traffic congestion
in most locations, and significant reductions in pedestrian casualties.
Extend Green Man time to allow older/disabled people to cross
in Green Man time, either by smart technology or simply extending
Install (raised) zebra crossings
(which give pedestrians better priority) as standard in urban
areas, unless volume or speed of traffic require pelicans.
Ensure level payments, in particular
assess the need for any dropped kerbs for garage access, and use
only designs which affect the outer kerbs rather than the whole
Reduce overall urban speeds. Require
all Councils to implement 20 mph zones progressively over all
Ensure minimum 2 metre wide obstacle-free
pavements and group all street furniture either against the wall
or in extra space outside pavement.
What can be learnt from good practice in England
Oxfordshire is a good example of where the publicised
policies, eg in the LTP, are excellent but implementation is opposed
by vested interests within the transport department and to a lesser
extent by councillors, though in most cases as the council is
hung, decisions are officer-led. Several examples have already
been given where policies, even those supported by the Government
are not acted on. Another example was a motion to introduce a
modal "hierarchy" putting pedestrians first, as recommended
in the LTP Annex D advice, which senior transport officers recommended
for refusal, in spite of other officers promoting it.
Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate
skills and training
From our experience, the answer is definitely
no. The principal problem however, is the unconscious or conscious
bias of senior officers to cater for car use, or at least concentrate
on the problems of traffic congestion and vehicle collisions.
Often, even measures that benefit pedestrians are accidental rather
than planned, where the greater concern is traffic management.
An example is where pavement extensions along a busy shopping
street were put across some of the side roads, but not all, because
their purpose was to deter crossing traffic, not to encourage
and make walking easier. There is a need to tackle these unconscious
or conscious priorities, rather than primarily the actual skills
of providing for pedestrians.
Whether all Government Departments ... are taking
appropriate measures, and in particular whether Local Transport
Plans, PPG 13 and the Government Paper, "Encouraging Walking"
Local Transport Plan: The change to LTPs has
generally been beneficial in re-ordering policy priorities. Oxfordshire
Walking Strategy and LTP walking strategy, notably put together
by younger officers, is excellent in its policies. What is as
yet lacking is implementation on the ground. All too often the
measures that are implemented do not follow or are even contrary
to the policiesan example is the proposed cycle lane along
the Woodstock Road pavement. From our experience, this is because
senior officers, who wield the power and decide on financial allocations
are generally much more retrogressive.
Revised PPG13: Although it is generally better
than the current PPG13, we have not had time specifically to analyse
it as regards pedestrians.
Encouraging Walking: As a whole, this document
is better than any previous advice issuing from the Government.
To summarise its good and bad points:
Sets national lead in guidance
Focuses walking guidance in one document
Lists actions and policies
Supports 5 C's (Connected, comfortable,
convenient, convivial and conspicuous)
Backs up health policies
Balance towards pedestrians, including
restrictions on car use/capacity.
Not a strategy, as in the National
Eg Parking on pavements allowed
No mention of Zebra crossings
No support for pavement extensions
Policy based on "This is what
we'd like, but you're the ones to do it and take the stick".
Whether greater priority should be given to measures
to promote walking, including a greater share of the Government
budget and the re-allocation of road space
Promoting walking helps everyone, but especially
some of the most disadvantaged groups who rely most on walking:
old people, the disabled, the mentally ill, children, the unemployed
and the poor. In contrast car use is essentially exclusive.
Budget: More public money should be invested
in walking, in proportion to its role as the second most important
mode of transport. In 1980, it was calculated that five times
more was spent per mile travelled on cars than on pedestrians
and 50 times more on cars per journey than on pedestrians (Hillman).
Our experience is that measures to improve walking are almost
entirely dependent on Planning Gain, which distorts the picture
and does not allow a strategic vision.
Re-allocation of road space: To a large extent,
this is misinterpreted. It is not taking small chunks away from
carriageway, which has only marginal benefits to pedestrians,
except in some locations (eg where no footway exists, or footway
extensions across side roads or Zebra crossings) but as a reallocation
of timed road space priority, eg at signalised junctions and Pelican
crossings. Here, there is always the well-worn argument that it
is impossible to put in a crossing or pedestrian phase, because
"it will lead to unacceptable traffic congestion". In
terms of moving people, a survey of one very congested radial
road into Oxford shows how inefficient cars, especially single
occupancy cars, are at transporting people. People, along with
goods, make up the lifeblood of our cities, where space is always
at a premium. Policies to promote walking are nearly always impossible
without policies to restrict car usebut it is car use that
uses up space, not walking.
Whether national targets should be set and National
We believe if there is a political will to arrest
the decline in walking and improve conditions for walkers and
to raise the health and fitness of the population, a National
Strategy should be published. The National Cycling Strategy, which
is languishing in the doldrums of policy, does not necessarily
augur well, but perhaps it would be possible to re-invigorate
the former with a political push on both fronts. We should make
it clear that walking and cycling are very different modes, but
the experience of Holland shows that the two can work together
in people's travel patterns as viable means for short journeys.
As for the question of national targets we therefore support combined
non-car mode targets, supported by real reduction targets for
car use, in line with the spirit of the Road Traffic Reduction
Legal: There are a number of issues where the
present legal framework works against the safety and encouragement
Pavement parking should be declared
illegal and be enforceable by Councils/SPA wardens and not the
Collisions in urban areas between
motorists and pedestrians should automatically lay the blame on
the motorist, unless the motorist can prove the pedestrian was
reckless, as now applies to Zebra crossings and to Home Zones
in countries such as Holland. The advantage at the moment rests
with motorists, backed up by insurance companies. We have many
examples of pedestrians and even children who have been knocked
down by drivers and are then sued for damage to the vehicle by
The Highway Code should be amended
to assert a pedestrian's right across side roads. At the moment,
the code is unclear, referring only to turning vehicles. Even
this is rarely adhered to by motorists.
Roadworks: Many of the most dangerous situations
that pedestrians are exposed to are road works, through a lack
of adequate alternative provision when pavements are dug up, but
even more importantly by the obstruction of roadwork signs in
the pavement. This is not just a question of lack of Council enforcement,
but because Government Guidance, which contractors follow, illustrates
signs placed on pavements. The degree of warning given to motorists
is more suitable for unlit 60 mph rural roads than busy urban