Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by M R Jackson (WTC 06)



  In spite of its title, I hope the inquiry will also consider walking in villages. Ability to walk safely is a key concern in responding to any "Walk to School" initiative in villages.


  I believe it should be a UK human right that:

    All can walk in safety and comfort from their homes, to access the facilities of their own and nearby cities, towns or villages.

  To realise this there should be six aims:

    —  Aim 1—To provide, in every street and highway in any built-up area, a footway of adequate width, segregated from the carriageway or cycleway by a protective kerb, and illuminated at night.

    —  Aim 2—To ensure there is a paved footway to sufficient highways, so that people can walk safely, and reasonably directly, between centres of population.

    —  Aim 3—To maintain on all footways a smooth and clean surface.

    —  Aim 4—To reserve all footways and pedestrian zones for pedestrian use, without any fear of contact or harassment by wheeled vehicles, other than those of children under 12 and the disabled.

    —  Aim 5—To ensure that permanent street furniture and other items placed on the footway allow adequate space for pedestrians to move without restriction, including those with prams and pushchairs.

    —  Aim 6—To provide convenient facilities for pedestrians to cross the carriageway safely, and with no more delay to them than to vehicles.

  To realise this right and its aims, three basic measures should be:

    —  Measure 1—To require highway authorities to collect and publish data on performance in respect of compliance with Aims 1 to 6.

    —  Measure 2—To provide specific government funding for footways.

    —  Measure 3—To educate and support officers with statutory authority in the enforcement of Aim 4, and of Aim 5 in respect of moveable objects placed in the footway or pedestrian zones.


3.1  Healthy living and reduced car dependence

  Walking, as the primary method for short journeys and as a component of longer ones, is a habit learnt in early years. That is why any "Walk to School" campaign must be backed with funds to remove the obstacles—pamphlets and other media are not enough.

  Public transport should be adequate to allow walking as a part of all journeys.

3.2  Decline in Walking

  Obviously, an answer to the decline in walking is "because the car is there and it keeps you warm and dry". Also many people live busier lives (not necessarily profitably so) than 50 years ago. Even a short journey on a fine day may not be walked because of lack of time. Schedules become based on the assumption of a short car journey. As an example, at a village church half the congregation will have driven less than a mile to arrive in time.

3.3  Obstacles to Walking

  There are many obstacles to comfortable walking due to the limited obstruction free width, and the condition of the footway; street lighting and road signs always restrict the footway, never the carriageway. However, the main obstacle to walking at all is where there is no footway.

  Many villages have grown from 300 to 3,000 population in the last 70 years. The number of vehicles on the main road within villages will have increased at least fifty-fold. The village lane has become a highway. But local authorities have lacked either the will, or the funds to provide these lanes with footways. In my village, there are nearly 1,000 yards of road without footway, along which children might otherwise walk to school. The local authority response is that there must be a serious accident before a footway can be funded.

  Thus, most parents drive their children to school, making the road less safe for the few who walk. A transport pattern for life is thereby cast in young minds!

3.4  Promoting Walking / Good Practice Elsewhere

  A key problem with promoting walking is the modern dispersion of facilities and the multi-activity journey. For example, the journey to the office may collect groceries on the way home and may also stop for a session at the gym. By foot and bus, such an itinerary would be tortuous and very expensive in many towns.

  The fare-stage structure of bus pricing in the 1950s, with substantial return discount, was suitable for the single purpose journey. In the last 20 years, short journeys have been given much higher costs per mile and return discounts are negligible, exacerbating the cost of a multi-stage journey. A totally new UK concept of bus pricing, related to time—as in many other countries, will be required to encourage less use of cars, and instead the foot and bus journey.

3.5  Relevant Skills and Training?

  Little skill is needed to build a footway, or clear a footway of both fixed and moveable obstructions. What is lacking is will and money. At present, cycling appears to be the government "flavour of the decade". All local authority transport design effort is devoted to this.

  When the major companies forced most local authorities out of the bus market, the skills in public transport also went. Thus, for example, when a town is due to build a new bus station, no one has any idea how to relate the number and type of stands to potential traffic, how best to arrange them, or how much passenger space to provide. It is built for operator convenience only. Such an approach inhibits integrated transport. This lack of knowledge should be addressed. Highway authorities should be required to have a pedestrian officer.

3.6  Appropriateness of Government Action

  What "cash strapped" local authority officer would spend much time considering the issues raised in Encouraging Walking? Whilst it has lots of good ideas, there was no significant means offered to implement them; nor is any performance reporting required by the paper.

  There should be a National Walking Strategy, starting along the lines of the Preamble in this memorandum. Transport plans submitted to DETR should include walking-related performance measures.

December 2000

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