Memorandum by Owen Ephraim Esq (WTC 39)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
Walking may well be a good thing for one's health,
awareness of one's habitat and as a means of meeting people, but
it is not seen as a chic, go-go or glamorous thing to do, particularly
in town. The very word "pedestrian" is used to describe
a dowdy, tortoise like and unexciting progress made in any sphere.
To improve the image of walking we must provide
serious facilities for walkers. Frequent and convenient seats
and arbours for the less able and others to rest, frequent and
completely safe "stepless" crossing points, good lighting
of pavements, smooth pavements which are litter free, easy gradients
and attractive views wherever possible are essential. It must
be made absolutely clear to drivers that the pedestrian has at
least equal rights to movement and that the facilities are designed,
rather than provided as an afterthought.
Walking, even if accepted as a "good thing"
from several points of view, must nevertheless be made into an
attractive alternative to other ways of both movement and passing
one's time if it is to contribute to healthy living. Greater separation
between moving cars and pedestrians is essential. Pavement barriers
should be provided on all roads where speeds may exceed 20 miles
per hour. Pedestrian crossing points on minor roads should be
specified and at frequent intervals with all vehicles halted for
short periods along the whole road. See drawing for example of
possible layouts etc.
Many factors have developed over the years to
reduce the convenience of both day to day walking and recreational
walking. Local shops are less available and the range of goods
is not as great as larger shops so shopping tends to be a less
frequent and more distant activity. Public transport is not adequate
if goods have to be carried more than a few yards, and I disagree
with the idea that a 200 metre walk is acceptable for bus passengers
as it excludes the infirm and those carrying goods, particularly
food. Nevertheless, public transport does allow the journey from
home to the shops to be walked. But the return fare is an inducement
to use the bus both into and out of town.
Recreational walking in towns is limited to
"heritage tours" of one sort or another, though areas
in the vicinity of town centres can be made attractive for short
walks if rivers, lakes or open spaces are present. Walkers can
in theory, still use the bus and train to get to and from their
start and finish points but the car usually provides a better
alternative. Often two cars are used for a party of walkers, one
car to get to the start point and the other to return from the
end point. Pollution and intrusion is inevitable.
The private car of course must be used both
ways and provides "door to door" transit of goods. Once
the choice is made to use a car, other choices, such as walking,
As a means of fast, private and immediate travel
walking does not compare to the attraction of the car. The car
allows privacy for the single or a group of travellers. The car's
perceived cost is low and the actual money costs is affordable
The costs in terms of pollution, global warming,
damage to the environment, injury and death are difficult to perceive
individually and too abstruse to overcome the peer pressure. Car
design, advertising, television programs, films, comment and one
up-manship all succeed in making cars attractive to all ages.
These factors adroitly distance us from the death, injury and
grief caused daily on our roads.
An equivalent effort must be made to improve
the image of walking. We must not depend on exhortation, fear
and increased awareness of the real costs of motoring. The cost
to the individual must also be highlighted in terms of physical
damage caused by long periods of sitting still, often in stressful
situations. Only recently have we become aware of the damage caused
by air travel with similar lack of movement, stress etc.
Bus companies are slowly becoming aware that
they have failed to compete with the private car over many years
and are pressed to improve the image and convenience of the bus.
Even bus travel, despised as it is by the motorist, is faster
than walking, is fairly secure and gives some protection from
rain. But the need for considerable knowledge of times, routes
and fares without recourse to a printed document presents a major
barrier to bus travel other than for frequent and repetitive journeys.
At present, bus travel outside London is seen
as the method of last resort. Its image must be greatly improved
by moving to more spacious and more user friendly operation, despite
the increased cost. Conventional buses must form part of a spectrum
of public transport which includes taxis, "door to door"
shared vehicles, "door to bus", "door to train"
and "door to park and ride" feeder services to and from
coaches and trains. Transfers between modes must be easy and convenient
with 24 hour operation and assistance with luggage and information.
A key issue is the provision of a public transport
system that is as good as the private car, attractive to use and
offers facilities not available to the car user. That means an
alternative which operates at all times of each day and is available
within a few minutes of the need to travel arising. It must also
be as or more convenient, have a lower perceived cost, carry luggage
and offer safe "door to door" travel. It should have
information and ticket sales for other modes of transport which
can be bought while en route.
A major benefit to the pedestrian is that good
public transport allows one or more "legs" of a journey
to be walked in the knowledge that if the weather, tiredness,
lateness or heavy baggage makes it necessary to return, public
transport is easily and quickly available from any point. With
"dial a ride" there would be no need to know where the
bus stop is, if it is sheltered, have a timetable, know the routejust
a call would suffice from a mobile phone or call box. Longer journeys
would entail transfers to other modes perhaps, but this need not
be the problem it currently presents.
Clearly we should increase the perceived money
cost of travelling by car and explain that the costs as outlined
above are not being met at present. For example, reduce car licensing
to a minimal £20 per annum, add to the basic petrol price
an insurance levy of £0.30 per litre, a pollution levy of
£0.50 per litre, a police levy of £0.10 per litre and
a highway maintenance and improvement levy of £0.40 per litre.
A gallon of fuel will then cost £6.20 or so which will be
a real incentive to improve engine performance and will provide
the public money needed to improve both pedestrian and public
transport facilities. This would mean that the first, 4,000 miles
per annum would cost no more than at present.
Speed sensitive obstructions should replace
humps and other traffic calming measures which affect those abiding
by speed limits as much as those who exceed the speed limits.
These devices could be set and changed at any time to any speed,
making them equally useful on urban roads or motorways. Each lane
of a motorway could for example have a different speed limit.
Weight sensitive sensors could be installed such that an obstruction
such as an 18x post is lowered only if and when a moving car is
detected a short distance before the obstruction. Any speed above
walking pace would lead to a collision with the post which would
not yet have lowered to ground level.
All powered road vehicles should have a visual
and audible display which would indicate if they are exceeding
the speed limit applied in the locality in which they are travelling
at any time.
Any conviction for dangerous or careless driving
of any sort should result in the automatic loss of ones licence
for a period which reflects the seriousness of the offence. Accidents
arising from such driving should cause these penalties to be doubled.
Given the improved public transport which I outline above, loss
of licence would not prevent continued mobility.
The amount spent on providing pedestrian friendly
features will certainly require an increase in the budgets for
these matters but increased costs for the motorist should cover
some of this as well as improving public transport.
We must aim considerable higher than at present
and plan any new developments to take these matters into account.
Only by providing and publishing a nationwide
objective can planners, architects and developers be expected
to take an initiative on the scale required. The strategy would
need to allow experimentation but would clearly specify the precedence,
relative to road transport, of public transport, pedestrians and
cyclists in accessing funds and land resources.
WHY I WRITE
I am and have been a motorist for many years,
I walk frequently to the nearby shops and library and occasionally
I cycle into the town centre along a cycle way which covers 50
per cent of the journey. I was a district councillor and have
been involved with improvements to road movements, public transport,
dial a ride, road crossings and traffic calming with a degree
All the technical points made in this response
are readily achieved with present day technology and if done on
a national scale, the unit cost would be readily affordable.
A view of the kind of development thinking required
to separate pedestrians from traffic.
Though shown as rectangular, the shapes may
be varied of course as may the road curves. Crossings at Car Ways
would be controlled by pedestrian controlled lights. By separating
and giving precedence to Northbound and Southbound traffic from
West and Eastbound respectively, road junctions are simpler with
cars always approaching each other from one direction only. The
number of houses per "estate" (here shown as eight houses)
can be changed as can the number of Footpaths and Car Ways per
Estate. (looks American Grid!)