Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (WTC 40)


  1.  The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) welcomes the committee's decision to hold an inquiry into walking in towns and cities.


  2.  DETR is responsible for promoting facilities for pedestrians in England. The devolved administrations have the equivalent responsibility in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

  3.  Responsibility for physical provision and maintenance of footways, footpaths and other facilities for walking in towns and cities in England rests mainly with local highway authorities, ie county councils, unitary authorities, metropolitan authorities and London boroughs. The Highways Agency, an Executive Agency of DETR, is responsible as far as trunk roads and motorways are concerned, but these are of course mainly inter-urban rather than urban.


  4.  Since the mid 1980s the proportion of journeys made on foot has fallen from 34% in 1985/86 to 27% in 1997/99. However, the proportion of journeys under a mile on foot fell less, from 83% to 80% over the same period. The total distance walked (including walks made as part of a journey with another main mode) fell by a fifth from 244 miles per person per year in 1985/86 to 191 miles in 1997/99.


  5.  A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, the White Paper published in July 1998, was the first major policy statement on transport strategy for a generation. It signalled a decisive change away from predicting and providing for increases in motor traffic, to widening personal travel choice by offering real alternatives. Transport 2010: the 10-year plan, published in July 2000, announced a £180 billion investment in all forms of transport in pursuance of this policy. One aim is to make walking more convenient, attractive and safer than it is at present.

  6.  Land use planning policy seeks to make it easier to get about on foot in a number of ways, for instance by promoting appropriate settlement patterns and walking networks, promoting attractive pedestrian environments in town centres and, through good quality design, making urban areas more attractive to pedestrians.

  7.  A key objective of planning policy is to ensure that jobs, shopping, leisure and services are highly accessible on foot. For example, major shopping and office developments should be focussed in town centres or within walking distance of major public transport interchanges and other developments; and everyday facilities should be located in local centres within easy walking distance of housing. To make town and local centres more attractive, planning policy guidance stresses the importance of improving the pedestrian environment. The aim is to ensure that the design and layout of new developments facilitates walking, for example in new residential developments, where the emphasis is on the quality of the place and the living environment and giving greater priority to the needs of pedestrians.

  8.  The Government's Urban White Paper Our Towns and Cities: The Future, published in November 2000 sets out a vision of towns and cities that puts people first and offers a high quality of life for all. It argues that we need an approach to the design and development of urban areas that makes it practicable to live in a more environmentally sustainable way, and calls for patterns of development that make walking and cycling more attractive options.

  9.  Encouraging walking: advice to local authorities was published in March 2000. Although it represents policy in England only, it was commended to the devolved administrations. The Government wants to see more people feeling able to make walking a first choice, both for short journeys, and for longer distances in combination with public transport. Encouraging walking is a practical guide for the people charged with putting policy into action.

  In support of the general guidance, DETR has also published Traffic Advisory Leaflet (TAL) 2/00 Framework for a local walking strategy aimed at helping local highway authorities prepare their walking strategies for their Local Transport Plans, and TAL 6/00 Monitoring Walking which summarised the results of a study reviewing techniques available to monitor walking activity.

  The Highways Agency published its Accessibility Strategic Plan Encouraging Sustainable Travel in September 2000. The plan deals with providing improvements for pedestrians, cyclists, and horseriders.


  12.  As part of its integrated transport policy, the Government has introduced a new system of planning and providing for local authorities' capital expenditure on transport, by means of 5-year Local Transport Plans (LTPs). The first full LTPs were published in July 2000 and cover the period April 2001-March 2006. They were given statutory status by the Transport Act 2000.

  13.  The Government's Guidance on Full Local Transport Plans published in March 2000, said that walking should be encouraged, both for short journeys and for access to public transport. It pointed out that walking is a low-cost, healthy and socially inclusive way of travelling. It invited local authorities to include local strategies for encouraging walking in their LTPs.

  14.  The local transport capital settlement, announced in December 2000, provided a total of £8.4 billion for the five years covered by the plans. Funding will rise from some £650 million in 1999-2000 to £1.3 billion in 2001-02, and to £1.9 billion by 2005-06.

  15.  The £1.3 billion for 2001-02 includes £545 million for capital road maintenance, more than double the allocation for 1999-2000. This covers, for the first time, capital funding for maintenance on non-principal roads (the great majority of roads) whose funding was previously entirely from revenue account. This allocation will enable local authorities to achieve a very considerable improvement in road maintenance to the benefit of all road users including pedestrians. As the Pedestrians' Association has pointed out, schemes for pedestrians are often relatively small scale and inexpensive.

  16.  Every local highway authority included proposals to encourage walking in its LTP and is committed to investing money in appropriate schemes. Individual projects in LTPs include more and improved pedestrian routes, measures to increase personal security, targets to improve access and mobility, particularly for disabled people, improved maintenance and plans for reviews and audits of local authorities' approaches to walking. It is likely that more schemes will be developed throughout the life of the plans.


  Reallocation of roadspace. The Integrated Transport White Paper signalled a change in the policy framework within which roadspace can be reallocated. DETR is keen to encourage local authorities to look at all the options.

  18.  Measures that are already adopted include well-planned pedestrian routes, pedestrianisation schemes and vehicle restricted areas. The Urban White Paper also announced a pilot scheme for clear zones. These zones might include car free or low emission zones; and they might be associated with new services like home delivery.

  19.  Home zones aim to improve the quality of life in residential areas by making them places primarily for people, not just for traffic. The Transport Act 2000 contains powers for local highway authorities to designate home zones and quiet lanes. The Secretary of State will be able to make regulations authorising local authorities to issue use orders and speed orders for designated home zones. The effect will be to promote the use of the street for a variety of sociable activities, and make walking safer and more attractive.

  20.  Nine pilot home zone schemes are being monitored over a period of three years by the Transport Research Laboratory on behalf of DETR. The monitoring project commenced in spring 1999. The `before' surveys have been completed. Implementation works are largely scheduled for completion by summer 2001 and `after' surveys will follow.

  21.  Local authorities are free to implement home zones, even if they are not monitored centrally, as long as they do so within existing legislation. DETR is keen to exchange information and experience, and is working to set up a means of doing this.

  22.  Interchange. Many journeys include changing between different types of transport, for example from train to bus. A quick and easy change is essential if sustainable transport is to compete with the convenience of car use. In the strategies contained in LTPs, authorities have had to consider how changes between types of transport can be made more attractive to pedestrians.

  23.  Safer Routes to Stations is a joint project involving Sustrans, Railtrack, DETR, local authorities, train operating companies and bus companies. The aim is to make it easier to walk and cycle to rail and bus stations. Primarily, this involves developing well-signed, direct and safe walking and cycling routes, and improving existing route facilities. Twelve pilot schemes have been started.

  24.  Traffic calming encourages drivers to adjust their speed to suit local road conditions. It helps to direct traffic on to the most appropriate roads, and improves safety for pedestrians. One result is an improved environment for walking. DETR has issued a body of advice on traffic calming through its Traffic Advisory Leaflets, which are distributed free to all local authorities.


  25.  Health. Walking can play a part in improving health, as set out in the Government's White Paper Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation. The Department of Health recommends that all adults should participate in at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, five times a week. Studies have shown that walking can bring a wide range of health benefits including reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of colon cancer and enhancing mental well being. The Government supports the British Heart Foundation and Countryside Agency initiative `Walking the Way to Health' launched in October 2000. DETR is currently investigating a programme of joint initiatives with the Health Development Agency which may include research-based advice on walking and health.

  26.  Safety. People are more likely to walk if there is a perception that our streets are safe. Major improvements have been made in pedestrian safety on our roads. The number of pedestrians killed fell 53 per cent by 1999 compared with the 1981-85 average. Over the same period pedestrian casualties of all severities fell by 31 per cent. Improvements in pedestrian safety also have an important contribution to make to the national road safety casualty reduction targets to be achieved by 2010.

  27.  The Road Safety Strategy, published in March 2000, included a chapter on how we aim to improve the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders. In the current financial year we are making available additional grant to local authorities to install more 20mph zones and other road safety engineering schemes.

  28.  Fulfilling a commitment made in the Road Safety Strategy, school crossing patrols have had their powers extended by the Transport Act 2000. It enables them to assist all pedestrians to cross roads, not just school children, and removes the restriction on the hours during which they can operate.

  29.  DETR has a programme of reducing transport crime and fear of crime by identifying, evaluating and disseminating good practice to public transport providers, and by identifying and addressing the needs, fears and requirements of different social groups. Research has been commissioned to identify effective crime reduction measures currently in use, and also to analyse people's fear of crime and what measures make them feel more secure. Personal Security Issues in Pedestrian Journeys was published in May 1999. It gives advice on best practice to transport providers and local authorities.

  30.  Mobility. Everyone in society should have the opportunity for independent mobility. The 10 Year Transport Plan contained a commitment that access for disabled people would be a condition of public investment. The Government will be developing measures for evaluating accessibility in transport systems, and in streets and public spaces. DETR is working closely with local authorities to encourage and promote best practice in designing pedestrian facilities without obstacles for disabled people. Dropped kerbs, tactile paving surfaces and sensitive design of pedestrian areas are all factors that can greatly improve the usability of the streets and pavements for anyone with a mobility problem.

  31.  Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 may also have an impact on facilities and services in the pedestrian environment. DETR, with the Institution of Highways & Transportation and a number of other bodies, has commissioned work to draw up comprehensive guidance on best practice in the design of public transport infrastructure and the pedestrian environment.

  32.  Education. Education has an important part to play in improving pedestrian safety. Through publicity campaigns DETR works with local authority Road Safety Officers to educate pedestrians and other road users.

  33.  DETR will be piloting a national network of local schemes to teach basic pedestrian skills to 5-6 year olds.

  34.  The School Travel Advisory Group (STAG) was set up with the twin aims of reducing problems caused by car use and congestion near school entrances, and improving safety on the journey to school. It has taken the view that our aim should be to return by 2010 to the level of walking, cycling and bus use in the mid 1980s. To help meet the aims of STAG, DETR encourages local authorities to work with schools to develop and implement school travel plans ie packages of measures designed to reduce car use and improve safety in the context of an individual school or group of schools. DETR published a best practice guide on school travel strategies and plans in June 1999. Authorities were asked to include in their LTPs a school travel strategy and targets for reducing car use for journeys to school. They were also asked to say how they would work with individual schools to develop plans, and many of them included this information in their LTPs for 2001-06.

  35.  DETR has offered bursaries to local authorities to appoint school travel plan co-ordinators. This offer includes an element for training. In 2001-02 we intend to commission an evaluation of the training available and skills needed.

  The Environment. The Air Quality Strategy (AQS) for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland sets objectives for improving air quality to protect people's health and maintain sustainable development. Road traffic contributes to air pollution and two of the major pollutants are particles and oxides of nitrogen. Technical developments, for instance in engine design, have led to reductions in some pollutants. Particulate emission concentrations fell from 64 ktonnes to 35 ktonnes between 1990 and 1999, despite traffic growth. Forecast studies of projection to 2010 indicate UK particle emissions could fall to 14 ktonnes. At the same time there is still much to be done on reducing other pollutants from road traffic and the AQS works towards these goals.

  37.  A review of road users' exposure to air pollution, published in 1997, showed that car users could be subjected to 2-3 times the pollution levels inside their cars compared to those experienced by pedestrians. Better provision for walking and cycling will help to encourage people not to use their cars for some journeys, thus reducing air pollution overall and personal exposure to the car users. Measures to control traffic in the interests of air quality may, if well planned, produce a more attractive environment for pedestrians.

  38.  The Committee recommended that the Government's environmental advertising should be consolidated to achieve more impact. This has been done through the "Are You Doing Your Bit?" campaign. Using alternatives to the car is one of the major themes of this campaign. A message to encourage walking was included in television and radio advertisements in 2000, and we are planning for this to be an important theme in TV advertising during 2001.


  39.  DETR will be publishing Education and Training for Cycling and Walking Practitioners in February 2001. This leaflet gives information on qualifications available and is supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Highways and Transportation and the Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers.

  40.  In support of the Government's policies aimed at encouraging walking, the DETR research programme includes a number of relevant projects. Further research is planned to establish an authoritative basis for advice on both audit of planned changes to the transport network, and reviews of existing transport networks.

  41.  Apart from the publication of guidance to providers, and the resultant feedback, there is a need for information exchange at a number of levels. Seminars and conferences locally and regionally help local authority staff and other practioners to be up to date with current thinking and to exchange ideas. A regular series of technical meetings provides an opportunity for relaying professional experience, and web sites will provide access to information that is accumulating.


  42.  Walk 21, the first international conference on walking, was held in London in February 2000. The conference proceedings have been forwarded to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). DETR is also involved in preparing an EU position paper on sustainable transport, which includes walking. This paper will be presented to CSD for a conference in April 2001.


  43.  We are all pedestrians. The convenience, attractiveness and safety of walking is being taken seriously. Its advantages are manifest -- as are the reasons why people have chosen to walk less in recent years. The Government is addressing the issues in the ways outlined in this memorandum.

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

12 January 2001

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