Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580
WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL 2001
580. Do I take it from that that in order to
rebalance there has to less priority given and less space for
cars and more for pedestrians, in your view?
(Mr Whitby) We are not anti-car but we have to address
the balance with the car and other vehicles on the streets with
the needs of the pedestrian.
581. The balance is wrong currently. Do you
think that a national walking strategy and targets for walking
would help in this process or not?
(Mr Whitby) I definitely believe that a national walking
strategy would work, much like the national cycling strategy is
working and much along the lines that a marathon in London is
encouraging people to run. They are major campaigns which have
a spin-off in the local community. They work on the basis of linking
communities together ultimately to create a long strand across
the country. They must work at a local level primarily.
582. Targets for walking.
(Mr Whitby) Targets for walking, it is very difficult
to measure the amount people walk. We want people to walk more.
How that is demonstrated in terms of a target has to be seen in
light of some intangible measurable quantity. There are statistics
to do with walking, pedestrian accidents particularly, and we
wish that if people were to walk more that it did not equal the
increase in pedestrian deaths. As people cycle more there are
more cycle deaths.
583. Are you saying that you are not convinced
that if there were targets for walking we could find ways of measuring
whether we meet them or not effectively.
(Mr Whitby) I think it is difficult to measure.
584. Do you think that one of the ways we could
restore the balance in favour of pedestrians is to remove the
barriers which currently exist, which seem to serve no particular
purpose, such as the staggered crossings and the rail guards.
Certainly the evidence that the Committee has taken and on the
visit that colleagues made to continental venues is they did not
exist in any other modern street?
(Mr Whitby) I completely agreewalking here
today we walked across staggered crossingsthey are to do
with the management of traffic, not pedestrians, and people have
to be able to move quickly and freely in order for them to be
able to feel they are tolerated as pedestrians in our cities and
585. What would you like to see them replaced
(Mr Whitby) We need to address phases when we come
to busy roads which are prioritised for pedestrians moving from
one side to another.
586. Without causing accidents?
(Mr Whitby) Just a space which has sufficient time
for people who are pedestrians to make a crossing. That would
include disabled pedestrians.
587. What would you deem to be the most appropriate
features of a modern street?
(Mr Whitby) The most appropriate features are a lack
of clutter, clear views, an ease of crossing, but equally a tolerance
between both the pedestrian and the traffic to the point where
both can exist together.
588. It would appear that in other European
cities, not necessarily capital cities, what they do is they have
an access which is particularly friendly towards wheelchair access
as well as pedestrians, would it not be more appropriate and are
you making suggestions we should have that style of crossing rather
than staggered crossings and guard rails that we see at the moment?
(Mr Whitby) Guard rails are purely to protect the
traffic from pedestrians doing what they might otherwise naturally
wish to do, which is to cross a road in a period when the road
is clear of vehicles. They are constraining natural parts of movement.
They are only there because otherwise people may wish to use that
589. If you look at Millbank people do avoid
the railings and people will cross where they want to cross, the
point I am trying to make is, are you positively suggesting they
should be removed and replaced with other more pedestrian-friendly
(Mr Whitby) We certainly should be working to remove
them. You cannot remove them unless you replace the crossings
with crossings which are definitely friendly to the pedestrian.
590. Do the railings not actually stop people
parking by the curbside so they tend to help to keep the traffic
flowing and discourage people from parking and do they not stop
people parking on pavements?
(Mr Whitby) They do both of those but more often they
constrain the pavement because they occupy parts of the pavement.
In some cases two pushchairs could not cross each other.
591. If there are all these problems why are
so many local authorities putting them in?
(Mr Blackwell) That comes from DETR guidelines on
safety. Experience has shown, certainly where those barriers have
gone in, they have shepherded more pedestrians to a crossing point
and have made that particular crossing point safer. It does nothing
for the aesthetics and cuts into the footway, as people have said.
592. When you say that it cuts down the number
of accidents, is that because the same number of people are using
that bit of road in crossing at that point or is it merely that
fewer people use it and, therefore, there are fewer accidents?
(Mr Blackwell) I think there are less people walking
anyway. It does concentrate the crossing movements to a point
where the highway engineers have historically thought it to be
much safer than the pedestrians. As has already been pointed out,
a lot of pedestrians choose to cross at another point, probably
just before the railings start, et cetera, because they perceive
those railings as being a hinderance to their movements.
593. On these safety statistics, does it take
into account that people do cross at other points?
(Mr Blackwell) All accidents are looked at where they
occur and local authorities look to see the cause and whether
people actually crossed on the crossing or elsewhere.
594. Do you think that staggered crossings are
helping road safety?
(Mr Blackwell) No, I am not saying that. I think the
barriers have helped reduce pedestrian casualties perhaps.
(Mr Whitby) They have also deterred the pedestrian.
It is equally worth saying, when you remarked about the motor
car not parking there, it is quite clear that motor cars have
great difficulty parking alongside railings. The management of
traffic is an important issue and I believe it relates to the
pleasure and ability for people to walk.
595. Like, I am sure, all other members, in
my constituency I have a number of developments that were built
in the 70s, 80s, 90s that are very meandering, with lots of different
cul-de-sacs. If you want to walk to the furthest house you end
up walking three times as far as if you could take a direct route.
What are the Urban Design Alliance doing to try and make those
sort of developments more accessible?
(Mr Whitby) It is worth saying that we differ in terms
of our view about cul-de-sacs. I can place a point of view which
says that cul-de-sacs create a tight community within which young
children can play and enjoy the space in front of their own homes
with a degree of safety. I live in one and I returned last night
to find my neighbours children using it much like an amphi theatre
in Rome on their skateboards and scooters. That is a positive
aspect of a cul-de-sac. It is worth saying that Barry has negative
views about cul-de-sacs.
(Mr Sellers) One of the things we have also looked
at, and there are differing views, is we certainly looked at the
possibility of increasing permeability through areas so that people
have a wider choice when moving around the environment. There
is also the fact that you can have more frontage development to
the streets themselves, so there becomes natural surveillance
between buildings and the street itself. It also gets rid of the
high walls, and so on, which are dead spaces fronting on to streets
which can be alienating to people walking along the pavements.
596. In terms of making that sort of development
more accessible by foot from main roads and having paths and shortcuts
into developments are you doing anything as an organisation to
try and promote that?
(Mr Sellers) The Alliance itself are looking at new
ways of master planning and urban design. It has to be recognised
that the master plans of the past have not necessarily been the
quality they ought to be. From a professional view we are now
looking at ways of providing better guidance on master planning
and frameworks so that these can be built into strategies for
an area which local authorities could produce, or they could be
part of the developers design guidance when they are required
to make a planning application. A developer could be required
to provide that framework so that the local authority and the
people that live in that area would know what the pattern of development
is going to be.
(Mr Whitby) It is worth saying that the police force
recognise that there are risks to properties which have cul-de-sacs
and pedestrian alleyways running off those cul-de-sacs. We have
a balance to strike in this area.
597. I was going to ask you as a follow up question,
how are you trying to address the issues in terms of safety, because
there are cases in my constituency where people have wanted to
shut off the alleyways because people are transitting through
an estate, occasionally with criminal intent, and they are using
the alleyways as a shortcuts. How do you balance those two in
terms of design?
(Mr Whitby) As a group we recognise there is a problem
and we need to bring all of the stakeholders in to discuss the
problem. One of the issues is engaging the Home Office, and through
them the police force, in discussing issues to do with the management
of urban space, both from the point of view of traffic, how traffic
moves through their space and equally the management of crime
in that space. We believe that one of the measurables to successful
urban design will be a reduction in street crime. Equally we believe
that good urban design is related back to the number of pedestrian
accidents. It is worth saying that one of the statistics available
is that a child from a poor community runs a five-fold risk from
pedestrian accidents than a child from a rich community.
598. Can I finally ask you how receptive, or
otherwise, you find the house builders to ideas for improving
accessibility by foot on this sort of development?
(Mr Whitby) The house builders are very integral in
urban design initiatives and addressing the legislation behind
urban design, particularly as they stand to gain from anything
which increases the density on urban plots. They are primarily
interested in new buildings. The businesses who are engaging in
it are those house builders who are interested in building large,
new developments. They are definitely at the table and involved.
It is worth saying that we have not, necessarily, engaged them
with the totality of this issue in terms of the pedestrian movement
through the neighbourhoods.
599. Could you perhaps tell me, Mr Whitby, whether
you think the technical guidance of street and highway design
from the Government is now satisfactory?
(Mr Whitby) I think to say that it is satisfactory
would always be begging a question. There is a lot that can be
done to improve the technical guidance year-on-year as we develop
a better modelling of best practice across the board and can demonstrate
the gains that come from that best practice. There are definitely
certain pieces of guidance which owe their origins to the horse
and cart, the positioning of bollards away from kerbs, which are
more to do with, possibly, a running board on a motorcar, which
is now no longer a necessity.