Memorandum by City of Bradford Metropolitan
District Council and Bradford Health Authority (WTC 68)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
1. The contribution of walking to Urban Renaissance,
healthy living and reducing dependency on cars
The contribution of walking towards Urban Renaissance,
healthy living and reducing congestion is of great significance.
The benefits of walking are well documented, reaching far beyond
the traditional scope of transport planning, with significant
health, environmental, social and economic impacts.
Walking is the most sustainable form of transport,
in both environmental and social terms. It has been described
by public health experts as the "nearest activity to perfect
exercise". It is a sociable activity which helps to reduce
the fear of crime and is therefore central to the regeneration
of urban areas.
International research has identified the substantial
health benefits of regular moderate physical activity like walking.
Walking can contribute to protection against coronary heart disease,
stroke, non-insulin dependent diabetes and osteoporosis and, through
improved strength and co-ordination, helps protect against falls,
fractures and injuries. Walking can play a part in weight control
and the prevention and treatment of obesity, a growing problem
in all age groups. In addition, people who are physically active
have enhanced mood, higher self esteem, greater self confidence
in their ability to perform active tasks and better cognitive
functioning than sedentary people or those who are less active.
In the UK about three quarters of the population
do not take enough exercise to benefit their health. The recommended
minimum level of activity for adults is 30 minutes of modest activity,
most days of the week. Current consensus suggests that this should
be integrated into daily life for example by walking or cycling
all or part of the daily journey to and from school or work.
A recent study has shown that in 1999 about
2.5 per cent of total direct health costs in Canada were attributable
to physical inactivity. Increasing physical activity has therefore
the potential to cut direct health care costs.
2. The reasons for the decline in walking
and the main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the
number of journeys made by foot
The major reason for the decline in walking
has to be the greater reliance on the private car, through increased
ownership and use. Many factors, often inter-related, have led
to this over recent decadeshigher disposable incomes, provision
of "car-based solutions" at the expense of other modes,
dispersed land-uses, the fast pace of modern life. All these serve
to marginalise non-car modes of travel. In addition there continues
to be significant social pressure in favour of the caran
aspiration to ownership as a status symbol, continuously reinforced
by powerful marketing.
Obstacles to walking are many and varied, of
both a psychological and physical nature. They centre on:
Walking not being seen as a serious
form of travel (except for leisure journeys).
Unpleasant walking environments,
often as a result of the presence of motorised traffic.
Poor physical infrastructure for
Fears over personal safety and security,
for ourselves and our children.
Dispersed land-uses, creating travel
distances impractical for walking. This leads to more car use
which in turn reinforces dispersed land use thus creating a vicious
Lack of recognition among policy
makers and the general population of the health damage associated
with our inactive lifestyles.
3. What should be done to promote walking,
including the creation of city squares, the role of pedestrianisation,
Home Zones, additional measures to restrain traffic, the harmonisation
of walking and public transport and improved safety and security
All of these need to be undertaken, together
with more general types of infrastructure improvement to make
walking more attractive, such as dropped kerbs and pedestrian
phases in traffic lights. In addition to improving the physical
environment, action is urgently needed to alter the attitudes
of the general public towards walking and to promote a change
in individual behaviour.
4. What can be learnt from good practice both
in England and elsewhere
Mainly that concerted effort, by the necessary
partners, to promote walking as a sensible, acceptable and beneficial
form of transport can lead to real increases in the number of
people walking in certain areas.
5. Whether the relevant professionals have
the appropriate skills and training
The promotion of walking is hindered by the
attitude of some transport planners and highways engineers who,
like many members of the public, do not recognise the importance
or benefits of walking. Walking schemes are often seen as small-scale,
peripheral to "mainstream" transport planning. Many
believe that involvement in walking promotion is not a good career
move. Again, then there is a problem with the image of walking,
but this time within the profession. Transport planners and highways
engineers need to work more with (and be influenced by) professionals
from other spheres such as health and social science.
Health professionals, particularly those working
in public health and primary care, have an important role to play.
They need an understanding of the potential of walking as an excellent
form of regular exercise. They need to develop appropriate ways
of measuring and recording patients' physical activity levels
and skills to help patients become more active.
6. Whether all Government Departments, their
agencies, including the Highways Agency, and local authorities
are taking appropriate measures, and in particular whether Local
Transport Plans, PPG13 and the Government Paper "Encouraging
Walking" are adequate
The key here is that a greater commitment to
walking from central government is required. There is no national
framework for action. The agencies and documents above may be
"saying the right words" but are, without such a framework,
Although the Government Paper "Encouraging
Walking" was welcome there was disappointment amongst professionals
and others who are keen to promote walking that the document,
envisaged originally as a national walking strategy, was in fact
published only as guidance for local authorities. Of fundamental
importance here is the lack of:
National targets for walking.
A commitment to the resources needed
to achieve these.
A strong and sustained publicity
campaign at the national level.
Without these, it is difficult to see how attempts
to promote walking can be fully effective.
It is noteworthy that walking has not been traditionally
high in the priorities of local politicians.
7. In particular, 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
In context of what has been said in response
to other points, greater priority must be given to both these.
There needs to be a national framework for local authorities to
undertake the re-allocation of roadspace. For instance, there
are many locations in Bradford, particularly at intersections
of radial and ring roads, where crossing facilities for pedestrians
are wholly inadequate, yet nothing can be done without taking
road space away from vehicular traffic (or demolishing a significant
amount of property).
8. Whether national targets should be set
and a National Strategy published
Again, in the context of what has been said
under other points, these are essential issues.
9. Other matters . . .
It is fitting to end by saying that in Bradford,
as in lots of other areas, much good work is being undertaken
towards the promotion of walking. A West Yorkshire Walking Strategy
is in existence and a Pedestrian Action Plan for Bradford is to
be published in the near future. However, this work could have
much greater impact if the Government itself were to take a much
more positive approach to the promotion of walking, in recognition
of the health, environmental, and economic benefits this can create.
Without such leadership it is unlikely that levels of walking
will be increased significantly.