Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
MR R BENDIXSON,
MR A PURKIS
20. In your evidence you talk about the need
for the reclassification of roads. How would your preferred alternative
means of road classification help to promote walking?
(Mr Plowden) Some work is already going on within
the Road Safety Division of the DETR, stemming from this document,
the Road Safety Strategy, which is looking at how to identify
the appropriate speed limit for rural roads and potentially for
urban roads. What they are looking at is the different uses you
might want to put a road to. What we would suggest is that that
process needs to be extended so that you look at all the aspects
of the management of a road in relation to the kind of road it
is, not just the speed limit. An example from my own neighbourhood.
I live in South London, in Brixton, and the A23 is also Brixton
High Street. The A23 is the main trunk road from London to the
south coast. Brixton High Street is a very important local social
and economic centre and it is clear if you go to Brixton High
Street and many similar streets in Britain that the road is designed
exclusively in the interests of people travelling down it as long
distance commuters from London to the suburbs and beyond. Our
argument would be that we need to think differently about Brixton
High Street and ask what jobs we want this street to do for the
local community and for people using it in cars and lorries and
whether the way the road is designed and classified is appropriate
for its different jobs. It seems to me that Brixton High Street
is a very unattractive environment for pedestrians because it
is designed as a trunk road exclusively. Our view would be that
if you redesign roads based around this wider set of criteria
than simply what kind of traffic they are supposed to carry, you
would by definition create more attractive environments in those
places where walking was seen as a priority. To some extent the
red routes in London under the Traffic Directorate and now under
the Mayor, have done precisely that: they have managed to accommodate
both traffic along them, but also people using them for other
purposes like shopping, recreation, taking children to school
and so on.
21. You talk about redesign and reclassification.
Which has to come first?
(Mr Plowden) Reclassification has to come first because
if you look at a local high street, at the moment the key consideration
will be what kind of road it is. Whether it is a trunk road, a
local distributor, a local service road are only traffic considerations.
However, the local high street will also be a shopping street
a street with public buildings on, a street with pubs and restaurants
on, a street with schools on. We would say we want a richer classification,
which includes the non-traffic functions of the street, which
will then lead to a redesign if it seemed that the non-traffic
functions were being inadequately reflected in the way that the
street was designed. You would say this is a mixed residential
traffic and shopping street and therefore the design of the street
in terms of the pavement width, the speed limit, the number of
railings, etcetera, would flow from that new classification.
22. May I say that before this inquiry started
I had never heard of the Pedestrians Association? Perhaps you
could quickly tell us how representative you are and how pedestrians
join your association?
(Mr Purkis) We have been around for a long time. We
have contacts in groups of members in 90 different places round
23. The pedestrians in my constituency, and
I value their thoughts, would not even know there was a Pedestrians
Association and somebody who was going to champion the cause of
people who walk in the cities and towns. Motoring organisations
are the issue.
(Mr Purkis) I agree with you. The association is a
sleeping giant and our intention is to awaken it. One of the difficulties
we start with is precisely that when you come to, say, the motoring
lobby, it is relatively coherent and there is a lot of money in
it as well. Obviously pedestrians by definition are extremely
diffuse; it is everybody going about their daily lives on foot.
It is much more difficult to organise that as a coherent interest
but we are working on it and we have made a lot of progress in
recent years and we are going to do some more work on it.
24. Did you walk to work today?
(Mr Purkis) I walked and then went on the Tube.
25. What political and institutional failures
do you see which have been at the root of the decline in walking?
(Mr Purkis) The number one overall and common failure
is the assumption, sometimes not an explicit assumption, that
streets should be seen mainly as a place for the movement of traffic
rather than other uses.
(Mr Bendixson) A key point here is that beyond political
and institutional issues there is a societal one. We are still
in the motor age. We all tend to some extent, some more than others,
to look at life through the windscreen and that has over several
generations influenced the way people on foot are regarded. We
tend to think that people in cars are more important than people
on foot. The revolution going on at the moment which we hope you
are assisting in, is getting a fairer deal for those same people
when they are on foot rather than in their cars.
26. What other Government Departments rather
than the DETR should help to promote walking?
(Mr Plowden) First there needs to be much better coordination
within DETR on these issues. We had an event earlier in the week
with the Minister, Keith Hill, where it became clear that his
officials working on walking were not aware of many of the things
around the urban regeneration which directly affect the walking
environment. There needs to be much better joined-up thinking
within DETR. We also think the Home Office has a very important
role to play in relation to crime and disorder. We had an official
from the Home Office at this meeting who was obviously very interested
in what we were doing. The Department of Health in relation to
walking and the health benefits of walking. Possibly the DCMS
in relation to the public art aspects of the walking environment,
so it is not just a functional issue. Ultimately the Treasury,
in terms of judging value for money in terms of transport and
urban regeneration investment to get the best deal for people.
27. Do you think there should be any changes
in PPG13 to encourage walking?
(Mr Plowden) Yes, in the specific sense that we should
like to see accessibility on foot made a much stronger consideration
in the planning system so that, for example, if a developer wants
to build something which is completely inaccessible on foot, whether
because it is too far away from other uses or because its design
is inaccessible on foot, that should be a fairly major consideration
against the grant of planning permission. If you want to create
high density, high quality towns and cities which is the Government's
aim, you have to make sure that developments are accessible on
foot and therefore planning ought to be taking that into account
much more explicitly.
28. You mentioned earlier the length of time
or length of journey people will walk sooner than use any other
form of transport. Do you think to lengthen that time, particularly
in major cities, there should be moving pavements?
(Mr Plowden) It is possible. Anything which can be
done to enable people to make longer journeys on foot, either
public transport or a thing like that, might be helpful. I expect
the infrastructure costs of that would be very, very significant
indeed. Unless you actually build them in to start with as you
would in an airport, for example, to retrofit those sorts of moving
pavements would be incredibly expensive. You would be better off
improving the existing walking environment in a way which encouraged
people to walk further and spend more time outside.
29. May I declare my interests include being
a keen walker and also the Committee are aware in my interests
in Railtrack, RAC and FirstGroup, which may or may not be relevant
to this inquiry? I should like to put on record the excellent
work which has been done in Denmark, to which the witnesses have
already referred, not just for pedestrians but for cyclists as
well. Are you as an association differentiating rural walking
from urban walking?
(Mr Plowden) Not specifically. What we would not regard
ourselves as being responsible for is rural off-road leisure walking,
that is rambling. If you were concerned about the journey from
your house to the pub in a village or from one village to another
to buy a pint of milk, then we would be interested in your concerns
because that is a function of walking which happens to be taking
place in a rural context.
30. My particular concern is that it seemed
particularly inappropriate when John Prescott suggested that North
Yorkshire schoolchildren should walk to school, because in many
instances the distances covered and the fact there are no pathways
or pedestrian walkways mean it is totally inappropriate. In any
walking programme, that should be recognised.
(Mr Plowden) Absolutely.
31. In your view, if more people were encouraged
to travel by rail, either for shorter or longer journeys, would
people actually walk for part of their journey to the railway
station or to the Tube station and back? Do you think there are
ways in which we could encourage them to do that?
(Mr Plowden) One of the arguments we have used is
that walking is the glue which binds together the transport system.
The vast majority of both rail and bus journeys begin and/or end
on foot already. It is our view that the potential for increasing
public transport patronage is under-achieved because the walk
journeys at either or both ends are not properly designed into
the equation. There is some evidence from abroad that you can
actually reduce overall journey times on public transport more
cheaply by improving the walks at either end than you can by investing
in more capacity. One of the points we made in our submission
was that any public spending on improved public transport facilities
should be accompanied by a clear audit of whether pedestrian accessibility
will be provided and improved. Unless that is part of the funding
proposal then the investment should not go ahead because you are
only going to get half of the picture if you concentrate on bus
stop to bus stop or station to station.
32. Have you as an association come up with
specific proposals as to how you would improve the walks at either
(Mr Plowden) What you want to do is look at the catchment
of walking journeys to and from a station for example, both in
terms of people getting on and off other public transport modes,
but also the residential catchment around a suburban railway station
up to about three quarters of a mile away and put in a programme
of improvements in terms of crossings, lighting, all the other
things which need to happen, to make sure that the journey from
the house to the station is as quick and safe and convenient as
possible. You have to do that systematically. You cannot just
put a crossing outside a station and hope that is enough. You
have to look at the entire walking catchment around the station
and bus stop to make sure you have taken into account all the
33. Is there any evidence to show that longer
car journeys, people choosing destinations further away, are discouraging
people from walking and taking a shorter car journey.
(Mr Plowden) Definitely. This is where the question
around land use and where things are is absolutely critical. What
we have seen is the fastest growth in short and medium-length
car journeys in the last 10 or 15 years and that is the thing
which really kills walking journeys.
34. Would it be helpful to have a national target
for increasing the amount of walking and if so, what should it
(Mr Purkis) In general it would because the Government
has almost got itself in the state of mind that if something is
a serious issue there must be a target. It concentrates minds,
it forces people to try to measure things, it may even lead to
the gleaning of information about walking that we do not actually
have at the moment. It would have all sorts of good effects. There
was a target which got expunged.
(Mr Plowden) Yes, there were some targets in the draft
National Walking Strategy, which were, first, to prevent the decline
in walking in the short term, by 2003 or 2004, then return walking
to its 1975 level by 2008 or 2010 and also to increase the overall
amount of walking which each individual person did on average
a year. For reasons which were never quite clear to us, the Government
took those targets out of the strategy and we think those are
perfectly respectable and should be re-instated as a way of focusing
people's minds on the priorities.
35. What has happened to the National Walking
(Mr Plowden) It crept out without much of a fanfare
last spring in the guise of advice to local authorities. So it
has emerged into the light of day but in a rather enfeebled and
unheralded form which we think was a big pity because it missed
a chance to highlight the importance of these issues. It is out
but not in the form originally intended.
36. So it is advice as opposed to something
(Mr Plowden) It has no formal status as a Government
strategy, which it was intended to have in the Transport White
Paper alongside cycling and public transport.
37. Do you have any feel for why the Government
decided to water it down and only make it advice as opposed to
something more challenging?
(Mr Plowden) The thought of picture editors digging
out pictures of John Cleese doing the Ministry of Silly Walks
was certainly part of it. Last year there was a lot of sensitivity
within DETR about the Government being in trouble in general on
transport and in particular being seen as implying that people
should walk rather than drive to the supermarket. It was mainly
a victim of political sensitivity rather than any sense that the
issues were not important.
(Mr Bendixson) Local walking targets are extremely
important because walking varies so much from place to place.
Twenty-five per cent of residents in Bath walk to work, eight
per cent in Solihull. A national target, yes, but local targets
as well please.
38. Presumably local authorities can draw up
their own local targets as they choose.
(Mr Bendixson) Yes, and some are.
39. Should walking schemes be essential parts
of local transport plans?
(Mr Plowden) Yes, they certainly should. There is
a requirement in the guidance on LTP preparation that local authorities
should prepare a local walking strategy as one of the strands
of its funding plans, which is extremely important because unless
you have a strategic plan for thinking about local walking, you
will not get all the different elements right. If we have a concern,
it is about whether at the moment local authorities are equipped
in terms of the skills and knowledge of their staff to do that
in the best way they could and there is an issue there about the
training and skills of local authority transport professionals.