Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Mayer Hillman (WTC 23)




  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 available.


  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 adopted—appear 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 journeys—though most of children live in car-owning households—one 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 a).


  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 transport—perhaps 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 implications—both positive and negative—for 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-motorised—nil petroleum-using—modes (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 failing.

  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 utilities—gas, water, electricity, cables for television—run 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 of pedestrians.

  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 Transport, 2000).

  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 domain—albeit most of them unwitting—clearly 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 driven—and their performance in terms of acceleration—should 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 traffic.


  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 approach—and 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 project—Sustainable 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 policy—and at low cost—but also a wide range of social, health and local and global environmental objectives.

Mayer Hillman

Senior Fellow Emeritus

Policy Studies Institute

January 2001


  Commission for Integrated Transport (2000), European Best Practice in Transport—Benchmarking, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

  CTC, Babtie Group and Policy Studies Institute (2000), Modelling and Appraisal of Cycling and Walking Unpublished report for the DETR and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund.

  Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (2000), National Travel Survey, 1997-99 Update.

  Hillman, M (1957), "Project for a Linear New Town" in Community Planning Review, Vol VII, No 3, September.

  Hillman, M (1977), "Some Implications of Transport and Planning Policies for Preventive Medicine", House of Commons Social Services Sub-Committee, Inquiry on Preventive Medicine, First Report from the Expenditure Committee, 1976-77, Appendix 58, HMSO.

  Hillman, M (1994), Revitalising urban communities. An unpublished Report for the World Health Organisation.

  Hillman, M (1996a), "In Favour of the Compact City", in The Compact City: A sustainable urban form (eds. Jenks, M, Burton, E, and Williams, K), E and F N Spon.

  Hillman, M (1996b), "The future of public transport: the dangers of viewing policy through rose-tinted spectacles", World Transport Policy and Practice, Vol 2, No 3.

  Hillman, M (1997a) "public policy on the green modes" in The Greening of Urban Transport (ed. R Tolley), John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

  Hillman, M (1997b), "Health Promotion: The Potential of Non-Motorised Transport" in Health at the Crossroads: Transport Policy and Urban Health (eds. Fletcher, A, and McMichael, A) John Wiley and Sons.

  Hillman, M (1998a), Curbing Shorter Car journeys: prioritising the alternatives, Friends of the Earth Trust.

  Hillman, M (1998b), "Why climate change must top the agenda" and "Carbon Budget Watchers" in Town and Country Planning (in special issue on Climate Change edited by Hillman, M), October.

  Hillman, M (2000), "It's not safe to cycle or walk" in Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Road Danger Reduction Forum, Central Hall, Westminster, London UK.

  Hillman, M (2001), "A continuous pedestrian network", Australian: Walking the 21st Century—An International Walking Conference, Perth, Western Australia, February, in press.

  Hillman, M, Adams, J, and Whitelegg, J (1991), One False Move...a study of children's independent mobility, Policy Studies Institute.

  Hillman, M, Henderson, I, and Whalley, A (1973) Personal Mobility and Transport Policy. Political and Economic Planning.

  Hillman, M, and Plowden S (1984), Danger on the Road: the needless scourge, Policy Studies Institute.

  Hillman, M, and Whalley, A (1977) Fair Play for All: a study of access for sport and informal recreation, (Political and Economic Planning.

  Hillman, M, and Whalley, A (1979) Walking is Transport (with Anne Whalley), Policy Studies Institute.

  Hillman, M, and Whalley, A (1983). Energy and Personal travel: obstacles to conservation (with Anne Whalley), Policy Studies Institute.

  Monck, S (1999), The Camden Walking Plan, London Borough of Camden.

  National Consumer Council (1987), What's wrong with Walking? and an associated Action Guide on Walking. (The author of this Memorandum was the NCC's Technical Advisor.

  Plowden, S, and Hillman M (1996), Speed Control and Transport Policy, Policy Studies Institute.

  Simpson, H (1997), "National Hospital Study of Road Accident Road Casualties", Road Accidents Great Britain: 1996—The Casualty Report, Government Statistical Service, London.

  Slower Speeds Initiative (2000), Briefing: Redesign the Streets.

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