Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Patrick Lingwood (WTC 28)


  This evidence is submitted by Patrick Lingwood, MSc in Transport Planning, Technical Advisor to Oxford Pedestrians Association and co-opted member of Oxford City Council Pedestrian and Cycle Subcommittee. To a large extent it uses unpublished material from research undertaken for my MSc dissertation "Walking to the Shops" (winner of the Barton Wilmore Planning Prize in 1998). Please note that references have been omitted.

  This submission seeks to contribute to the first three bullet points in the ETR Committee inquiry, in particular the contribution of walking to the Urban Renaissance and reducing dependency on cars; the reasons for the decline in walking and the main obstacles to encouraging journeys on foot, and what should be done to promote walking.

  The general argument of this submissiion is that non-car access to services, in particular local shopping, is important for promoting walking. Local shopping however must be economically viable to survive. Therefore, in order to promote walking, there is a need to understand the attractions of local shopping, and the profiles of those people who use it. Evidence from a case study of one district shopping centre in Oxford, where a detailed pavement survey was undertaken, will be used to bring out the main characteristics for local shopping. The evidence will be located within the broad policy spectrum of PPG13 and the need to reduce motorised travel and promote alternatives such as walking. As a working definition, local shopping is taken to mean urban district or neighbourhood centres (Davies 1984), rather than free standing superstores, out-of-town shopping centres, town centres, or local or isolated shops.

  The first section includes a brief overview of the evidence that local services are important in promoting walking and reducing travel, including an examination of some of the major factors influencing walk journeys. The second section will examine what literature currently exists on the role of shopping and local shopping in particular, with regard to its impact on travel patterns. The final sections will present the findings of the case study.


  Research evidence shows that there are a number of influences on people's willingness to walk. Hillman & Whalley (1979) mapped out the importance of walking in their seminal book "Walking is transport", which still represents the most significant research on walking, in spite of being 21 years old. Principally, Hillman showed firstly that promoting walking was essential for people's travel needs, as households do not act as one household, but as individuals within that household (so that one or even two car households cannot meet the needs of their members by car use alone). Secondly, they emphasised the importance of walking as the principal means of transport after car use. Walking accounted for 33 per cent of all journeys (29 per cent in NTS 91/93) and 49 per cent of all journey stages. For some groups and journey purposes, it was even more significant (more recent figures where available in brackets): 60 per cent (51 per cent) of children's journeys; 57 per cent of recreation journeys; 46 per cent (37 per cent) of shopping journeys and 42 per cent of eat/drink journeys.

  Car ownership and licence holding emerged as the two most important variables that influence people's decisions to walk: car drivers made more journeys overall and fewer journeys by foot. "The extent of travel by all methods falls as the extent of walking rises" [35]. More recent work has confirmed this relationship (Curtis & Headicar 94; DETR 98).

Cars in household
(% adults licence owners)
Foot journeys
Motorised journeys
(includes cycling)
all methods
% foot
2 or more (81)
One (63)
None (12)
All households
Licence holders
Non-licence holders
Figure 1  Car ownership/licence holding and number of foot/motorised journeys per day per person: NTS 1975-76 (Source Hillman 1979 Table III.1 and footnote 2, p 32).

  Two other major factors identified influencing walk/car choice were urban density and proximity of services. At first sight this may seem unlikely as 75 per cent of all car journeys are over two miles (NTS 93/95), which is beyond walking distance. Hillman concluded that: "In these instances the difference in travel between areas results not only from a substitution in travel method, nor only from the choice of destination, but also from a substitution in mobility; in other words, where a non-car owner in a high density area will walk, a similar person in a low density area is more likely to become a car owner—and then use his car [to go to a more distant location]" [52].

  Newman & Kenworthy (1988) in an international comparison of 32 cities came to similar conclusions: "Residential density in the central city does correlate strongly with all the transport patterns, including the amount of walking/bicycling" [47]. "What appears to be fundamental is what determines the need for car use" [71]. Research carried out by Ecotec (1993) for DoE and DoT supported the findings of Newman, and guided the policies of PPG13 (1994). One particular finding is of import here: "The range and quality of facilities offered by local centres, especially the availability of food shops, is an important determinant of the extent to which people use neighbourhood centres, rather than travel to centres elsewhere. The availability of facilities is substantially more important than other transport related factors such as public transport or parking" [Ecotec 1993: 53].

  Research by Roberts (1992) of two areas in Manchester also supported the need for local services and concluded: "The way to curb car use would therefore be to make it unnecessary, or less necessary, for people to own cars by providing facilities such as employment, shopping and services, close to where they live" [61].

  The work of Headicar and Curtis (1995), however, showed that for regular work journeys, overall location was most important: "It is not simply the size of a new settlement that should be considered but also its geographical location, particularly in relation to other settlements, employment and strategic transport routes" (Curtis 1985:46). Nevertheless, the same research showed that for non-work journeys, there was little difference in travel distance between locations (all new estates with very few services). Banister 1993 using data from South Oxfordshire survey also concluded that services were important: "Settlement size together with the availability of local facilities, services and employment, are the key determinants of travel and energy consumption" (Banister 1993b: 100).

  Conclusions: car ownership/availability is directly related to car use and inversely related to the number of journeys on foot. For work journeys, the need for a car is to a large extent determined by macro-spatial factors, but for many other journeys the need for a car and inversely the amount of walking is related to density and urban form, of which one important factor is accessibility to services.


  To examine the contribution of local shopping, there is a need to quantify the impact of shopping patterns and the evidence that local shopping does promote walking. Post-war planning assumed that journeys to local shopping centres would be predominantly on foot. Towns were designed to promote accessibility in neighbourhood units within a city, where shopping was usually placed in the centre of the neighbourhood unit to minimise the walking distance from the surrounding residential areas (eg Keeble 1952 fig 21: 98). However, as Brown (1992) puts it: "The rapid growth of refrigerator and motor car ownership has conspired to alter the nature and timing of consumer shopping expeditions and to loosen the geographical constraints that may have once prevailed". From 1970, retailing underwent fundamental changes—with the rise of superstores served by parking, the development of edge-of-centre and out-of-town retail opportunities and the loss of small independents. As a result, it is now more of a planning and policy assumption that shopping, in particular food shopping, is dependent on car use.

  The so-called "Retail Revolution" certainly has had a very large impact by promoting car use and by the loss of small shops accessible to car-free households. Figure 2 overleaf charts the total loss in numbers of shops, particularly in single outlets. Another factor in the decline of walking to shops has been that those areas—inner urban areas—which are most likely to have less car-dependent travel patterns are also the areas likely to be served by local shopping, and are also those areas which have suffered most population loss. From 1951 to 1981, the population in the urban cores declined by over one and a half million from 52.7 per cent to 44.4 per cent of the population (Breheny 1994). Moreover, this population loss is magnified by an economic loss, as the higher earning middle classes move out into the suburbs or rural hinterlands, therefore exacerbating the decline in local shopping.

Census of distribution
% change
Independent shops
Business monitor
Single outlets
Small multiples
Large multiples
Figure 2  Decline in number of retail outlets—figures rounded.
Source: Davies 1984.

  Most surveys of local shopping reveal a heavy reliance on local journeys and on walk journeys. The exact percentage for each mode however, varies considerably between different local centres. Bach (1995) presents national data on shopping, which shows that shopping as a whole accounts for 22 per cent of all journeys. Walking accounts for 37 per cent of all shopping trips, but 94 per cent of all shopping trips under 0.5 miles and 45 per cent of all journeys between 0.5 and 2 miles (see Figure 3). Journeys under 2 miles make up 56 per cent of all shopping trips, which may reflect the importance of local shopping, although no figures exist broken down by type of centre.

  Figures 4 and 5 use large data sets to show the mode of arrival at different retail locations. What is evident is that local centres are served predominantly on foot, out-of-town centres almost exclusively by car, and town centres have high car use, but also significant bus use and walking. The date in figure 4 may overemphasise bus use by the use of London data, but individual surveys (Figure 6) show that access to different locations in the same retail level can vary enormously, although for local centres surveyed the normal range of walking is between 20 per cent to 90 per cent of all trips, for car 10-50 per cent, for bus 1-30 per cent, and for cycle 0-4 per cent (except in Oxford).

Location (Source)
Average or range in %
Local Shops
Four cities—local centres average (Tarry 92)
Four cities—local centres range (Tarry 92)
Edinburgh local shops (Carley 96)
Oxford four local centres (supermarkets) range (OCC 86)
Withington Manchester (Roberts 92a)
Rusholme Manchester (Roberts 92a)
West Midland local shops: 16 centres average
West Midlands 16 centres range (DOE 88)
Strathclyde region all centres—average
Strathclyde region all centres—range
Portsmouth superstores (Hallsworth 91
City centre superstores (JMP 95)
Suburban superstores (JMP 95)
Out of centre superstores (JMP 95)

Figure 6:  Data from individual shopping surveys showing mode of travel, divided into three sections: local shopping centres; all shopping centres; superstores in different locations.


  A survey was undertaken at one of Oxford's four suburban district centres—Summertown, lying two miles north of the City Centre (with two large supermarkets) and two miles south of Oxford's first major out-of-town superstore in Kidlington. It was therefore possible to test the attractions of the local centre against those nearby food stores. There also existed historical data by way of comparison. Summertown has two small supermarkets (5,000 sq ft each) and just under 100 other shops, of which 23 are convenience, 35 are comparison, 33 are services, with three "sui generis" and three vacant. A pavement survey of shoppers was carried out on different days and at different times, with 240 valid responses. Refusals were similar in terms of age and gender.

  The questionnaire sought to answer the following questions:

    —  Did the local centre cater for non-car access, and if so what were the characteristics of the different groups in terms of distance from the local centre, frequency, etc?

    —  Did the local centre act primarily as a place to do the "main shop" or "top-up shop"?

    —  To what extent was the local centre economically dependent on shoppers arriving on foot or by car?

Access to Summertown:

  Summertown was served primarily by walking with 50 per cent of all respondents arriving on foot; 26 per cent came by car, 16 per cent by cycle and 6 per cent by bus. This falls within the expected range as stated above, except the high cycle usage typical of Oxford. Notice however, that in spite of the fact the route is served by two bus companies, both with approximate five minute day-time frequencies, bus use is negligible.

Where respondents did their "main shop" (figure 7):

  38 per cent of respondents did their main shop in Summertown, whilst 44 per cent used Summertown for "top-up" shopping and did their main shop elsewhere (of which 34 per cent used the nearby Kidlington superstore). 18 per cent shopped outside Oxford or did not normally do main shopping. A similar question in 1986 survey (before any superstores existed in Oxford) showed that 58 per cent did their main shopping in Summertown and 32 per cent elsewhere (of which 15 per cent in Oxford city centre and 11 per cent in other Oxford local centres) with 10 per cent outside Oxford. Therefore the role of local shopping in Summertown has changed significantly from predominantly main shop to predominantly "top-up" shopping.

Access to local centre by kind of shopping (figure 8):

  If we examine how shoppers got to their normal main shopping and Summertown by the kind of shop that they were doing, significant differences exist. Main shop elsewhere, who were predominantly (but not exclusively) shopping at superstores, was mostly undertaken by car (75 per cent of all journeys). Those same respondents (doing top-up shopping in Summertown) used their cars much less to access Summertown (35 per cent by car, but 45 per cent on foot and 15 per cent by cycle). Therefore it can be stated that the location and/or the type of shop in Summertown reduces the need for a car.

  Those doing their main shop in Summertown used the car the least—60 per cent arriving on foot, 20 per cent by cycle and only 12 per cent by car. It might be assumed that this group did not generally have a car available to use. Car availability among "main shoppers" in Summertown (37 per cent of respondents) was indeed significantly less than for the group "main shop elsewhere" shoppers (75 per cent). However, even among "main shoppers in Summertown", there were 32 respondents with a car available but only 11 using a car. The implication is that whether for main or top-up shopping the location of Summertown reduces the need for car, and encourages walking and (in Oxford) cycling.

Other findings in summary

  There was a strong correlation between the number of respondents and proximity, with over 25 per cent originating (last place) from within a mile, just under 25 per cent from a to ½ mile, another 25 per cent from ½ to one mile and 12 per cent from one-two miles. Mode and distance were also strongly correlated, with walking significant up to one mile, cycle usage significant in all distance bands up to two miles and car use increasingly significant over ½ mile. Frequency of visit was also strongly correlated with distace, with 75 per cent of all daily shoppers living within ½ mile and 80 per cent of more than weekly shoppers living within one mile. All these (expected) findings emphasise the fact that local shopping is essentially local, which is why it is so reliant on walking and that to achieve economic vitality, it must have a sufficiently densely populated hinterland to provide enough customers.

Economic vitality

  Questions on expenditure were correlated with various characteristics or variables, such as car use. Mean expenditure per person was £15.10 per trip. By factoring the numbers in each group with frequency of visit, it was possible to calculate overall expenditure in the centre by each of these variables. The main findings are summarised in Figure 9. For each variable, average expenditure per person is listed, along with the percentage contribution to the overall spend in the shopping centre. What is significant is firstly that the shopping centre is equally reliant on both car drivers and those on foot, because car drivers spend twice as much as those on foot; secondly that "main shoppers in Summertown" contribute significantly less to the overall spend than "top up" shoppers, even though the latter group are obviously spending significant sums in their main shop elsewhere. This may be the crucial factor in the continued economic vitality of the local centre, in spite of the trade diversion to nearby superstores. Thirdly, it is also of interest that women still spend proportionally more than men.

Average spend
Overall spend
Average spend
Overall spend
Main shop Summertown
Car drivers
Top-up shop Summertown
Figure 9:  Average spend (£) per person per trip, and percentage contribution to overall spend in Summertown for different groups (variables).

Significance of local shopping

  It was a weakness of a pavement survey that it was impossible to show the percentage of local people using the centre (as would have been possible with a household survey). However, a rough estimate was calculated by multiplying the footfall (calculated by pedestrian counts) with the percentage of people using the centre at certain frequencies. Census figures show that just over 18,000 people live in the three local wards (approximately within one mile). Calculations suggest that just over 9,000 people or half the local population use the centre at least once a month. This can be compared to data from a Consumer's Association survey (Common 94) where 83 per cent of respondents used their local centre in the last year and Tarry (1992) that 44 per cent of respondents used their local centre daily and 96 per cent weekly. This suggests that the impact of local shopping is therefore significant in overall travel patterns.


  Where it exists, local shopping centres play a significant role in people's shopping habits, and by their location, reduce the need for motorised travel, both in terms of top-up shopping for mostly car-owning households, and main shopping for car-free and some car-owning households. Their economic vitality however is dependent on continued access by both walkers and car users (and in some locations cyclists and bus users). Local shopping, especially urban local shopping as opposed to the more politically contentious issue of village shops, has few policy protagonists. There is no doubt that local shopping performs an essential service, in the same way as access to transport, schools or medical services. However, some policies, such as promoting city centre access by creating no stopping lanes or bus lanes through local shopping areas work against their economic vitality. There are very few levers to ensure accessibility to local shopping. Maroney (1976) sums up the core of the problem as "a social need must be paralleled by an economic need".

  There is therefore a need to maintain or even increase their local population (against the trends of counter-urbanisation), a need to increase local employment opportunities, a need to manage and improve the pedestrian environment, a need to publicise and promote the centres, as in policies for Town Centre Managers (DOE 1994), a need to incorporate their role in Local and Structure Plan policies and a need to educate local officers. In addition, attitudinal questions suggested that out-of-town superstores scored heavily on the availability of free parking (whereas parking was charged in the local centre surveyed). A levy on out-of-town/edge of town parking would create a more level playing field and help reinforce the vitality of local shops, and thereby reduce car use and promote walking.

January 2001

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