Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 55)



  40. What criteria would you lay down for effective walking plans.
  (Mr Plowden) First of all trying to get the best information which can be got about existing walking activity of which the main source at the moment is only the 1991 census of walking to work. There is a desperate shortage of local data on walking which needs to be improved. We also need to think about the obvious places people are likely to be walking to and from: from housing estates to schools, to shops, to sports centres, to townhalls. Then ensure that the links between those places are as direct and safe and attractive and convenient as possible. Unless you look at a whole town or a whole neighbourhood, all you will do is tinker with a crossing here and a subway there rather than thinking about the likely movements of pedestrians around a town or village or city.
  (Mr Purkis) As an association we have actually produced a guide for local authorities to have of how they might set about this. If you would like we could submit that to the Clerk afterwards.[2]


  41. Yes, we should like that please.
  (Mr Purkis) There are also some examples of good practice already in particular places. We could also make details available of those if that would be helpful.

Mrs Ellman

  42. You have referred to the need for better skills and training of staff. What would you do to improve that?
  (Mr Plowden) First of all we need to create a career path for people who want to know about these issues. Very few people in local government have ever made a career of promoting walking. In a sense we need to create a career path which would make that one of the things you learn how to do. You need to give transport planners and highway engineers either extra skills around things like urban design and architecture and issues which affect the wider environment, or ensure that you have teams of people working together in local authorities who can draw on those different skills. It is really a question both of encouraging people to take up what skills there are by putting money and priority into walking and making that an attractive career option and ensuring you have the full range of skills, both design and planning skills, in your professional staff to make sure you get the best outcome in terms of pedestrian conditions.

  43. Do you see a role for the new centres for neighbourhood renewal and new centres for urban design in that?
  (Mr Plowden) Definitely. John Rouse from CABE was at the meeting we had earlier in the week and it became clear that we and they ought to be talking much more directly about the urban design aspects of the walking environment and vice-versa.
  (Mr Bendixson) There should be in-career training as well as ab initio training at the colleges and schools involved in traffic engineering and civil engineering.

Mrs Gorman

  44. I want to ask you a question that I want to ask you and it is this. I do not meet a parent these days who feels it is safe for their child to walk to school, whether it is in London or whether it is in my constituency. How do you get to persuade those people? How do you explain to people who live in Peckham, for goodness sake, where apparently there is not a policeman to be seen for days on end? Some of the things you have said seem to me completely unrealistic. I want you to tell me how you manage to come to the conclusion that you can somehow make more people walk when the people I talk to clearly feel that walking is not safe.
  (Mr Plowden) Absolutely. Could not agree with that more. That is why you need not just to look at the physical infrastructure like crossings and subways and lighting, but all the things which influence people's willingness to walk. The reason why we do not think we are being starry-eyed idealists is that other cities in Britain and other countries have successfully created conditions in the round which encourage people to go on walking. The two things which deter parents from letting their children walk to school in terms of perceived dangers are stranger danger—and after Damilolo Taylor I am sure that will have increased—secondly, the danger from traffic. You need to deal with both of those issues, not just for children but for adults as well, so that you reduce the danger from traffic in terms of speed, volume, crossings and so on and make sure that people feel safe in terms of personal assault, whether that is by more uniformed policemen, better street lighting, more people on the street as well. If you just do the physical infrastructure you will only address half the problem. We certainly agree with that.

Mr Olner

  45. There has never been a policeman on every street corner. You are falling into the trap of saying our streets are unsafe when you know they are not, relatively.
  (Mr Plowden) The evidence from the States is that it is not about there being a policeman on every street corner. It is about the regular appearance, periodically, of uniformed policemen who are seen to be part of the process of maintaining public order in that community. In America the evidence is that if policemen underwrite the basic level of public order and security, communities then feel more confident about upholding the law between foot patrols and policemen. That has certainly been the experience in New York where they have put more uniformed people in the street, not on every street corner but regular patrols, and crime has gone down dramatically.
  (Mr Purkis) We are the organisers nationally of the Walk to School campaign each year: a combination of parents getting together and concerting their forces, walking buses where appropriate, organised consultation with schools and with local authorities on particular problems and blockages and safety matters.

Mrs Dunwoody

  46. What is a walking bus, a crocodile?
  (Mr Purkis) Yes. These do and can make a difference. It is not that we are all up against such terrible problems that we cannot do anything. The walk to school campaign has made improvements which do encourage more people to walk to school. There is a lot of good things on which to build there.

Mrs Gorman

  47. The major problem, you acknowledge though, is it not, is that it is parents who travel to school, short journeys and the congestion they cause which is a serious deterrent?
  (Mr Bendixson) Having said that, which is perfectly correct, a very large number of parents—I am afraid I do not have the figures at my fingertips—still do either walk with their children to school or large numbers of children do still walk alone to school. The glass is half full as well as being half empty.

  48. I am supposed to solicit your views on the justification for reducing the speed limit to 20 miles per hour for example from the current 30 miles per hour. How do you think that would affect people's willingness to walk.
  (Mr Plowden) The faster a car is going when it hits somebody, the more likely they are to be killed or seriously injured.

  49. We all know that.
  (Mr Plowden) The question is: what do you expect the norm to be in built-up areas where you know that there will be people, adults, children, young, old, etcetera, walking around the streets? It is our view that the Government giving local authorities the power to introduce 20mph zones without consulting the Secretary of State has been a major step forward and we strongly support it. We should like to leave on the table the proposition that if that does not help reduce casualties by as many as the Government's target, the question of looking at a 20mph basic speed limit for cities and towns should be introduced. You would obviously allow some exemptions for roads which were primarily for fast moving traffic, like roads coming into and out of city centres, but you would start with the assumption that 20 was a reasonable base speed for traffic in town centres. Whatever the speed limit is, you have to put enough money into traffic calming to keep the speed limits observed and into the policing of speed and traffic more generally. At the moment traffic policing is not a high priority for most police forces and that is partly why speeds tend to be exceeded.

Mr Brake

  50. Do you believe that transport operators and local authorities are now doing enough to make stations, whether it be rail or bus, accessible to pedestrians?
  (Mr Plowden) They are starting. Things like quality partnerships in relation to buses are certainly looking at those issues. Railtrack have understood the importance of not just the immediate environment of stations but the wider catchment. I still think that the potential for increasing public transport use by making the walking connections better has been underestimated. It is very expensive to increase railway capacity, certainly compared with increasing the safety and convenience of the journeys at either end. So if your journey takes an hour, you might be able to reduce it faster by improving the walk links than by putting one more train on or whatever which would cost a lot more money. Yes, they are starting but there is a long way to go.

  51. Is there a single measure you feel would be helpful to achieve greater accessibility?
  (Mr Bendixson) If operators had a better understanding of just how many people did, for instance, walk to railway stations. They tend to know how many people park and they tend to provide parking. Because people on foot do not leave their shoes outside the railway station when they get on the train, nobody really knows how many people walk. The evidence is that very large numbers do.

Mrs Dunwoody

  52. What evidence is there seriously that Railtrack even worry too much about the people who drive to the stations? Forgive me. I do not mean this unkindly, but they have moved most of their taxi ranks away from the front forecourts of their stations. They have made it more difficult for buses to go into them. They have shown no interest whatsoever in the ease of their passengers. Try walking through Paddington now. There are some very nice stores to go into, but it is not an easy place to walk through. The only people I can see Railtrack care about are Railtrack. If you have evidence to the contrary, please tell me.
  (Mr Bendixson) All we have evidence for is the large number of people who do walk. There is some very good data from Kent County Council showing what high proportions of people walk to their commuter stations.

  53. Forgive me, but your colleague implied that Railtrack were now aware—I cannot remember the exact words. If they are aware that is something, but what makes you think that?
  (Mr Plowden) Talking to people in the railway industry, they are starting to understand that the journeys do not just start at the station.

  54. Do you mean they are just beginning to realise they have people as passengers?
  (Mr Plowden) Yes; they have obviously made a breakthrough.

  Mrs Dunwoody: I suppose every advance is worth recording.


  55. Can you very briefly tell me? Any views on Home Zones?
  (Mr Plowden) Strongly support them. We were involved with the Home Zone Steering Group which set up the pilot monitoring scheme in the DETR. We should like to see many more coming through local transport plans and we should certainly like to see the Government ensuring that the legal liability for where a driver hits a pedestrian in a Home Zone or a cyclist is changed as it is on the continent, so that liability lies in the first instance with the driver.

  Mrs Dunwoody: Also where cyclists drive everybody else mad, they should be forced to have insurance.

  Chairman: On that note, may I thank you very much for your evidence.

2   Taking the Strategy Step, published March 2000 to help local authorities plan the local walking strategies required by the Local Transport Plan guidance. Back

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