Memorandum by Mayer Hillman (WTC 23)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
There is considerable research evidence to indicate
that the wider public interest is better served when journeys
are made on foot rather than by motorised means. For this reason,
there is a strong case for re-ordering existing transport priorities
in favour of pedestrians, not least through the medium of road
space allocation. However, politicians, advised by their transport
and planning "experts", were and largely continue to
be, on a different wavelength. For the last four decades, they
have anticipated a future of "universal car ownership"
in which the geographical limitations of walking would be removed
through the medium of technological advances enabling travel at
higher speeds. It was assumed that access to a vastly increased
catchment of opportunities would lead to enrichment of the quality
of life. Eventually, nearly everyone would be able to enjoy the
benefits. For those unable to do so, public transport would be
The findings of many of the research studies
in which I have been engaged since co-designing a pedestrian-oriented
New Town 45 years ago (Hillman, 1957)sadly neither the
plan nor the concept behind it was adoptedappear to reinforce
the case for asserting that walking is deserving of far higher
priority in public policy than it is accorded at present (Hillman
and Whalley, 1979; Hillman, 1997 a). In spite of a fall in the
proportion of journeys made on foot (DETR, 2000 a), it caters
for between a quarter and a third of journeys, including two-fifths
of all children's journeysthough most of children live
in car-owning householdsone in three of the journeys of
everyone over the age of 60, a quarter of the journeys of people
of economically-active age, and 80 per cent of those made within
a mile, a proportion that is much higher in inner urban areas
(ibid). It has scope for catering for significantly more
journeys than can public transport (Hillman, 1998). In marked
contrast to travel by all forms of motorised transport, the greater
the role it can play as means of travel in our lives, the greater
the social, economic, environmental, energy-saving and health
benefits. But there are a number of careless interpretations of
and misleading judgements on the available evidence which have
stood in the way of a wider appreciation of this role.
What continues to be overlooked is that the
pre-requisites for independent car use preclude, and always will,
the majority of the population from enjoying this advantage (Hillman,
Henderson and Whalley, 1973; Hillman and Whalley, 1977). Children
are included in this calculation for, of course, they have an
equal right to safe and independent travel outside the home. Although
this majority relies heavily on walking, it is further disadvantaged
by land use planning changes made in response to the wider availability
of cars, resulting in an extension of the distances needed to
travel (Hillman, 1996 a): indeed, in the last 12 years alone,
average journey length has increased by 25 per cent (DETR, 2000
In the sphere of the economy, our examination
of the cost-effectiveness of providing alternatives to the car
has revealed that it is not a shortage of public funds that is
the source of the transport problem. A major transfer from urban
journeys currently made by car is far more likely to be achieved
by constructing the relatively very cheap networks for walking
(and cycling), followed by improvements to bus services. On a
door-to-door comparison, the National Travel Survey shows that
pedestrians take less time than bus passengers on journeys up
to about one and a half miles long. In fact, the costs of provision
to promote walking are a small fraction of those for public transportperhaps
too cheap to be bothered with! The cost of one kilometre of a
light rail system is the same as the cost of roughly 50 Safe Routes
to School projects or 20 mph zones. And the cost of one kilometre
of London's Jubilee Line extension is the same as 2,000 of these
other forms of public spending which encourage walking (Slower
Speeds Initiative, 2000). It is illusory to believe that pouring
large sums into high quality public transport will attract people
out of their cars (Hillman, 1996 b).
On the issue of safety, we have highlighted
significant reasons for questioning the validity for policy of
casualty rates, even analysed by mode. Pedestrians are of course
at a much higher risk of injury in getting about than are people
travelling by car or public transport. But this is not due to
any intrinsic danger in walking but rather to the absence of traffic
calming measures to reduce both the volume and speed of traffic
which accounts for that higher risk. We have also shown how essential
it is to differentiate casualties according to whether the injured
were "inmates" (of vehicles) or "outmates"
(pedestrians and cyclists). Given that nearly all of the injuries
of the "outmates" result from a motor vehicle (mainly
a car) colliding with them, far from it being unsafe to walk,
it is clearly unsafe to drive (Hillman, 2000)! It is also salutary
to note that there is a considerable level of under-reporting
of pedestrian casualties: the need for an adjustment fact of 2.28
has been established for serious injuries and 1.35 for slight
injuries (Simpson, 1997) and none of those occurring on pavements
are recorded. Moreover, what is also overlooked is that the number
of casualties is only a partial measure of road safety, particularly
where pedestrians are concerned. Whilst pedestrian casualties
have fallen sharply in recent years, we have shown that, not least
in relation to children, the reduction is explained to a considerable
degree by the greater restrictions that parents put on their children
from getting about on their own with serious consequences for
the latter's development (Hillman and Plowden, 1984; Hillman,
Adams and Whitelegg, 1991; Plowden and Hillman, 1996).
We have questioned the advisability of determining
transport policy without relating it to its implicationsboth
positive and negativefor the nation's health (Hillman,
1997). We have revealed the damaging consequences of feeding the
addiction to car travel both from a personal viewpoint in terms
of that making it less likely that the exercise of walking (and
cycling) on a daily basis occurs, but also from a community viewpoint
in that the dangers posed by increased car use make it less likely
that other people will derive the benefits of making their journeys
on foot. Recent surveys show that most children and adults are
getting insufficient exercise and are therefore at greater risk
of heart disease and other debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.
They are also denied the enhancement that improved fitness brings
to well-being and quality of life (Hillman, 1997b). Yet these
benefits are excluded from the appraisal process.
In the sphere of the use of resources, our studies
have identified a crucial failure in transport policy to recognise
that the most effective way of minimising energy-wasteful patterns
of travel, especially conserving finite fossil fuels, is by promoting
the non-motorisednil petroleum-usingmodes (Hillman
and Whalley, 1983). In the UK, at current occupancy levels, fuel
use per passenger kilometre by public transport is only about
20 per cent lower than by car. This has particularly relevance
to my current research on the implications of climate change for
personal lifestyles, including transport's role in this.
In affluent countries, carbon emissions must
be reduced by over 90 per cent if the equitable contribution of
their populations is to prevent serious damage to the planet's
eco-system (Hillman, 1998). If that target is not met, the disturbing
consequences of climate changes which we are beginning to witness
are very likely to intensify, and the costs of coping with them
are very likely to rise sharply. Every aspect of our fossil fuel-dependent
activity must come under scrutiny, including transport, and the
contribution that can be made by increasing the proportion of
journeys made on foot.
This brief tour d'horizon of the reasons justifying
prioritising transport policy in favour of walking appears very
much at odds with the policies and both personal and government
practices over the last 40 years influencing its attractions.
Indeed, it is almost as if there were a conspiracy to discriminate
against pedestrians, effectively treating them as "second
class" citizens. For example:
1. Road crashes are described as "accidents",
an inappropriate euphemism given that the great majority of injuries
among pedestrians result from insufficient care being exercised
by drivers. In addition, the injury rate by travel method is used
as the indicator of relative danger inevitably leading to the
conclusion that walking is "dangerous" rather than the
car and lorry driven at unsafe speeds.
2. Such an approach also leads to the view
that the principal reason accounting for the impressive decline
in the number or road deaths and injuries in the last 25 years
is that our roads are safer rather than that pedestrians have
had to be increasingly vigilant in the face of the growing threat
from traffic and that children are denied the freedom of getting
about on their own on foot to a later age in their childhood (Hillman,
Adams and Whitelegg, 1991).
3. The lives of pedestrians are increasingly
at risk: there are now 23 million licensed cars in Great Britain,
nearly double the level just 25 years ago, and they are capable
of reaching speeds well in excess of the top limit. And levels
of enforcement of the limits, and penalties for infringement,
are derisorily low.
4. Pedestrians are blamed for exercising
insufficient vigilance and debited with "contributory negligence"
when a crash occurs overlooking the fact that carelessness on
their part, especially children and old people, is a natural human
5. When crashes do occur, all traces are
removed immediately, thereby minimising their impact on public
consciousness. Any proposition that plaques be erected to mark
the incident considered too harrowing for the bereaved.
6. The "network" for getting about
on foot is interrupted at every road intersection, obliging pedestrians
to spend time waiting for a sufficient gap in the traffic to allow
for a safe crossing or detouring to a specified location.
7. Street furniture is located in such a
way as to restrict pavement width, and the utilitiesgas,
water, electricity, cables for televisionrun their services
under pavements often resulting in uneven surfaces from careless
re-instatement of pavement flags.
8. The great majority of exhaust pipes are
positioned at the rear of vehicles on their left-hand side in
such a way that fumes are expelled at low level and in the direction
9. Local authorities seldom monitor the
condition of pavements nor levels of air pollution or noise, yet
a national survey some years ago revealed that 94 per cent of
respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of their pedestrian
environment (National Consumer Council, 1987). It is difficult
to believe that there has been a significant change since then.
10. No figures on the costs of provision
for walking compared with motorised travel are available so that
the far greater cost-effectiveness of investment in provision
for the former remains unrecognised. This has reinforced the false
image that the only realistic alternative to the car is public
transport (Hillman, 1998a). This grossly misleading view is still
prevalent: a recent Government-appointed Commission report, containing
advice to the DETR on European "Best Practice" omits
journey on foot on the grounds that they "constitute a very
low proportion of passenger kilometres" (Commission for Integrated
11. Planning proposals rarely consider changes
in land use (such as lower residential densities and the wider
geographical spread of facilities), insofar as they affect the
convenience of getting around on foot. The effect of this has
been that destinations, such as for school, shopping and medical
treatment, have been effectively moved further to achieve internal
economies of scale for the "suppliers". As a result,
the distances people have to walk have often been increased to
an unacceptable or impractical length.
12. Forecasts made in the process of determining
plans for meeting future transport demand, and expenditure on
the plans, extraordinarily exclude walking (and cycling): only
motorised travel is considered worthy of inclusion.
This devastating litany of errors of judgement
and fallacious assumptions in the transport domainalbeit
most of them unwittingclearly accounts for much of the
decline in the attractions of walking. To reverse this trend and
thereby meet many public interest objectives going well beyond
those in the transport sphere, many changes in policy and practice
are needed. Some of these are set out in one local authority's
paper which includes targets and performance indicators, and an
annual review of progress on these (Monck, 1999). Others that
need to be highlighted have considerable prospect of changing
travel patterns in favour of walking. Several changes in policy
and practice can be suggested. Each represents a logical response
to may of the 12 themes outlined above and has considerable prospect
of changing travel patterns in favour of walking.
The first and most obvious means of improving
the environment for walking stems from recognition that streets
also have a social function. This leads to far more attention
being paid to reducing the volume of traffic. The social, economic
and environmental costs need to be better accounted for, including
the impact that the use of motor vehicles has on amenity. At the
same time, the speed with which vehicles are drivenand
their performance in terms of accelerationshould be markedly
reduced for all the reasons set out in a PSI report (Plowden and
Hillman, 1996), and now being strongly advocated by the Slower
Speeds Initiative. There is also a strong case to be made for
more resources being placed in the enforcement of speed limits.
Regular monitoring of the condition of pavements to reduce the
likelihood of tripping would also be beneficial. Much benefit
would also be derived from legislation to require motor manufacturers
to site exhaust pipes on the right-hand side of vehicles.
Decisions in the field of planning should be
made with an awareness of their implications for the convenience,
safety and amenity of pedestrians, for instance a charge could
be put on non-residential parking at shopping centres, with the
revenue used to subsidise delivery services and business rates
for smaller local shops, a high proportion of whose customers
reach them on foot and who therefore do not generate much car
The third measure is a means that we have developed,
with support from DETR, to enable local authorities and central
government to broaden the aspects that are taken into account
in the appraisal process for determining the most cost-effective
strategies they could adopt on transport investment (CTC, Babtie
Group and Policy Studies Institute, 2001). It is in the form of
a model that incorporates the costs and benefits, for instance,
for health and environment which are excluded in the current approachand
therefore militates against investment that promotes local patterns
of activity based on walking.
The fourth approach for justifiably favouring
pedestrian movement is concerned with the re-allocation of road
space. It requires local authorities to invest far more in pedestrian-oriented
projects such as traffic calming, including 20 mph residential
zones; Safe Routes to School initiatives (for instance, those
forming part of the work of Sustrans); the creation of safe routes
for children to reach leisure facilities (as recently implemented
by the London Borough of Ealing in its SALSA projectSustainable
Access to Leisure Sites and Amenities); and the Home Zone concept
(as promoted by the Children's Play Council with support from
Helen Brinton, MP).
Perhaps the measure with the greatest scope
for promoting walking is the concept of a pedestrian network.
At present, the road network provides a continuous even surface
for wheeled vehicles which often travel so fast as to inculcate
fear in people getting around on foot, particularly when speed
limits are poorly enforced. Pedestrians are exposed to danger
when they cross roads, their journeys are lengthened and, as noted
earlier, restrictions on children's freedom to get around on their
own is extended to an even later age in their formative years
owing to parental concern for their safety.
This radical solution, if supported by central
government could be adopted by local authorities wishing to be
in the vanguard of forward thinking on ways and means of giving
pride of place to people getting about on foot by adopting a strategy
to create an uninterrupted pedestrian network within their administrative
areas (Hillman, 2001). The construction of this network, consisting
of pavement-level linkages across the road would be staged over
say a ten-year period, starting first outside schools, park entrances,
lesser shopping areas, bus stops not on strategic routes, and
road intersections in residential areas.
At the heart of the matter in this domain of
transport policy lies the difficulty for decision makers of considering
radical alternatives to the conventional approach. So far their
actions appear to reflect a desire to enable people to travel
"further and faster", if not by car, then by public
transport. They have pandered to the public's addiction to the
car and the illusory belief that, where there are problems of
congestion, better public transport will deliver the solution
to the clear limits on feeding the addiction. They need to be
informed by objective evidence of the unsustainability of this
process, not least that stemming from the implications of climate
change. A strategy to advance this would contain measures to,
over time, substantially reduce both the volume and speed of traffic.
It would not only deliver many of the objectives of transport
policyand at low costbut also a wide range of social,
health and local and global environmental objectives.
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