Memorandum by Terence Bendixson Esq (WTC
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
The following note sets out a short list of
issues that shape the walking environment and/or influence how
much people walk. The author puts them forward for consideration
by the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs
Committee. He has been a student of walking since 1974 when his
Instead of Cars, was published in London (Temple Smith & Penguin),
Wisconsin and Tokyo.
2. LAND USE
The amount of walking in a place is determined
principally by patterns of land use but also by other factors
such as levels of car ownership, age, physical ability and attitudes.
Mixed higher density land uses such as Bath, where 25 per cent
of residents walked to work in 1991, support walking. Lower density,
suburban housing districts such as Solihull, where eight per cent
of residents walked to work in 1991, deter walking.
The future of walking therefore depends principally
on promoting as much development as possible, whether in inner
cities, suburbs or villages, at medium to high densities and within
walking distance of local services. For Britain's increasing number
of elderly people, this is likely to provide an attractive option.
3. SITE LAYOUT
Site layouts and even individual buildings can
be designed to favour or to deter walking. Even fringe of town
supermarkets with large car parks can be designed so that their
main entrances are close to nearby houses, or separated from them
by, say, a main road and 50 yards of car park. The Waitrose supermarket
at Cirencester and the Sainsbury supermarket at the Greenwich
Millennium Village are both defective in this respect. The same
considerations apply to in-town buildings where such features
as blank walls, gaping garage entrances and adverse micro-climates
create unpleasant walking conditions.
Developments need to be laid out first of all
for the convenience of walkers and only after that for vehicles.
This is not an anti-car policy. It merely recognises that someone
on foot will be more deterred by, for instance, having to go an
extra 100 yards than someone in a vehicle.
Birmingham City Council has valuable experience
in converting its centre from a car-centred to a walking-centred
place. The Council started from the position that walkers prefer
clear, linear routes. It then established what were the main routes
along which people were walking or seeking to walk. Having done
so it has, in many cases, required developers to play a role in
implementing its plan for walking. The Committee may wish to call
as a witness the main architect of this policy. He is Geoff Wright
of Robt Turley and Associates, Consultants, Birmingham, firstname.lastname@example.org
(This memorandum will be copied to Mr Wright.)
Design for walking is as much about site
planning and development as about highway engineering. Local Authorities
need to establish where its people are trying to walk. Having
done so it can require developers to create and enhance such routes.
Current law provides that pedestrians and vehicles
have the same rights in the highway. Both have right of passage
and neither is entitled to obstruct the other. In effect might
is right and, except on designated crossings, pedestrians are
generally obliged to defer to vehicles.
The Committee may want to consider whether there
is any justification for allowing this unfair convention to persist.
Already some drivers politely concede priority to pedestrians
who are in the middle of the road. A first step would be to enshrine
this principle in lawbacked up by a programme of awareness
raising. A further step, to be introduced once the first was established,
would be to oblige drivers to give way when a pedestrian stepped
into the road at any place.
The latter is longstanding practice in Santa
Monica in California. Such a convention transforms conditions
Current practice in Britain is for pedestrians,
out of concern for their lives, to defer to vehicles. The Committee
may conclude that there are no grounds for allowing someone in
a vehicle to presume that they have an automatic right of way
over someone on foot. In which case they may wish to propose that
increasing priority be accorded to pedestrians when in the carriageway.
Signing in towns and cities is predominantly
for drivers of vehicles. The resulting signs are large and ugly,
their supports obstruct footways and they are of little or no
use to people on foot. Transport information systems that give
guidance to drivers in their vehicles are already being installed
in expensive cars and promise to make street signs redundant.
Although this could take up to 20 years to achieve, the Committee
may want to alert the DETR to this opportunity to reduce the obstruction
of footways and the blighting of streets and roads. Such a shift
in signing technology, to be promoted through the European Commission,
would enable all street signs to be devoted to people on foot.
As cars become fitted with on-board navigation
systems, an opportunity will arise to remove obstructive and ugly
road signs. The Committee may wish to urge the DETR to promote
such a change both nationally and internationally.
TV AND TRAFFIC
More and more utility equipment is being allowed
to obstruct footways. This is problem particularly in 19th century
streets. With telephone companies in competition, Councils are
often obliged to permit the installation of more than one kind
of phone box on the same stretch of street. Traffic signals engineers
create further obstructions by putting large control boxes on
footways. Cable TV companies are likewise allowed to put their
junction boxes on footways where local youths often daub them
The Committee may wish to consider:
(a) requiring all public telephones to be
available as wall mounted units so that Councils can oblige phone
companies to install them in such a form in places where footway
space is scarce,
(b) obliging all traffic signal, telephone
and Cable TV junction boxes to be located beneath the pavement
or on private property.
More and more utility equipment is being
allowed to obstruct footways. This problem could be reduced by
giving local authorities powers to oblige telephone companies
to install wall-mounted equipment and to require Cable TV, telephone
and traffic signal engineers to put control equipment underground
or on private property.
7. CONTROL OF
Graffiti contributes to fear that the streets
are unsafe. The daubing symbolises the taking over of the streets
by a lawless force. Firms making the spray paint and other materials
used in graffiti are making profit from this public fear. The
Committee may wish to consider ways in which the manufacturers/importers
of the paints be made responsible for clearing up graffiti.
The City of Philadelphia, faced by a blitz of
graffiti, passed a law that required the suppliers of the paints
involved to take action to clear up the mess or face a ban on
the sale of their products. The companies opted to clear up the
Graffiti contributes to fear in the streets.
The Committee may wish to consider ways in which the suppliers
of graffiti paints and markers be made responsible for removing
the nuisance from which they profit.
8. REDUCING OBSTRUCTION
In many inner city streets, parked cars are
a widespread obstruction to the free movement of people on foot.
Experiments are under way in Edinburgh (Budget Car Hire), the
London Borough of Camden and elsewhere with local car hire services
that enable residents to have the use of a car without the need
to own and park one. The Committee may wish to draw attention
to this aid to pedestrian movement and to suggest ways in which
such services might be made more widely available.
The more widespread introduction of local
car hire services could help to reduce the obstruction of walking
by parked cars in dense inner city districts.
9. PAVEMENT MAINTENANCE
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
has an outstanding record for the maintenance of pavements and
the use of high quality paving materials. Furthermore the Council
recognises the importance of walking for its residents by spending
as much on footway maintenance as it does on carriageway maintenance.
The Committee may wish to examine the proportion of highways expenditure
devoted to footways by different authorities and draw the attention
of DETR to any variations.
Pavements in many towns are in a very poor
state. With the government increasing the funds available to local
authorities for highway maintenance, the Committee may wish to
comment on differentials in spending on footway repairs by different
Walking on the public highway for leisure is
increasing. Such walking is likely to go on growing yet the National
Travel Survey only reports leisure walking journeys by residents.
Walking by visitors staying in hotels and hostels is not counted.
In cities such as London, York or Edinburgh, which attract many
visitors, this means that walking is undercounted and its importance
The Committee may wish to suggest that the
National Travel Survey should count walking journeys by tourists
and visitors who are staying in hotels and hostels.
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Southampton