Memorandum by Walk First in Lambeth (WTC
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
Lambeth is an inner London borough whose northern
boundary is the River Thames between Vauxhall and Waterloo. The
borough extends south as far as Crystal Palace, and demonstrates
a range of inner city and inner suburban conditions. Walk First
in Lambeth is a pressure group set up two years ago by local residents
who wished to lobby their local authority for better walking conditions.
Lambeth residents exhibit low car ownership,
representing attitudes ranging from those who cannot afford cars
but who would nevertheless wish to do so, to those who choose
not to own or use cars because of the relatively dense network
of public transport services.
Despite low car ownership and dense public transport
networks, Lambeth streets are dominated by vehicle traffic. The
Council admits that much of this traffic is "just passing
through". However it is powerless to do anything about such
traffic, and those who use Lambeth's streets on foot are penalised
for doing so through having to suffer the presence of vehicle
users having no business in the borough.
We have not attempted to specifically address
all the questions posed, for others will have competently addressed
these. Our focus has been to address issues relating to how local
Councils can, despite expressions of intent to do otherwise, continue
to ignore walking and its importance within local communities.
For example, Lambeth accepted the report of
the transport taskforce Feet First in February 2000, but have
not followed this up with a strategy or targets; and the Interim
Transport Plan has had sections on walking in both 1999 and 2000.
Yet the voters of Lambeth will not have noticed any improvements.
Question (3): What should be done to promote walking...
Question (7): Whether greater priority should
be given to measures to promote walking...
Responsibility for the walking environment lies
with many providers;
Public transport providers
In Lambeth consultation is sporadic and there
are no laid down standards for obtaining users' views about their
walking experiences. There is no regular forum for the public
to raise walking issues. Town Centre Forums and consultations
with local amenity and civic societies produce a focus on specific
local areas, but there is no forum in which all those who contribute
to the walking experience can come together to be questioned by
users or to formulate joint proposals.
No organisation sees itself as a walking champion,
so that despite well-intentioned Council statements about improving
walking, things actually get worse. The lack of any overall responsibility
for co-ordination means that it is easy for one organisation to
excuse itself for inactivity by blaming another. Even within the
Council there are numerous teams who have some influence on aspects
of the walking environment, and yet there is no co-ordination
of their efforts, and of course no targets or yardsticks against
which overall Council performance can be measured.
Audit Commission standards are woefully inadequate
and do nothing to reflect the quality of the walking experience,
or its availability to different user groups like the young and
old. Statements about the numbers of street lamps and pedestrian
crossings in a borough say little that is meaningful.
Nor are there any standards to use as a lever
on providers to create better conditions. While legislation such
as the Disabilities Discrimination Act is bringing about improvements
to buses and trains, improving the means to access them (the street)
appears to escape such legislation.
It is all too easy for local authorities to
excuse themselves from improving walking conditions while they
are able to say that they have no money. The fact that this statement
is made so often both confirms that local authorities share little
real enthusiasm for improving walking, and justifies some form
of ring-fencing for funds to maintain and improve the walking
Question (5): Whether the relevant professionals
have the appropriate skills and training
From our own experience we believe it to be
quite clear that the relevant professionals do not have the appropriate
skills and training, and that this applies at all levels in all
organisations involved in providing some element of the walking
Ignorance can be found as much within the Police,
seen to tolerate motorists' and cyclists' infringements of traffic
laws affecting pedestrians; within public transport operators
whose vision extends only to the in-vehicle elements of journeys;
car park designers who do not provide for the walking elements
of journeys made in car parks; as within local authorities who
supervise or undertake the design, provision and maintenance of
so much that affects the walk trip.
Ignorance about walking and its importance to
individuals and communities begins with senior people, and extends
from them down through the various levels of personnel, to the
young person appointed (possibly part-time) as "walking officer".
The existence of such appointees confirms the officials' vision
of walking as a "niche" subject, often seen as a road
safety matter, which can be put into a corner and forgotten about.
It is this official ignorance at all levels
of the meaning and purpose of walking, which contributes so much
to preventing meaningful improvements to the individual's walking
Question (8): Whether national targets should
be set and a National Strategy published
We believe there to be a strong case for a National
Strategy which sets standards and lays down targets for improvement.
The absence of targets for walking, when the Government has set
targets for so many other aspects of transport provision, confirms
a suspicion that the Government itself does not understand the
importance of walking, nor the importance of focussing more investment
on encouraging people to make shorter journeys.
Such targets should be aimed not only at local
authorities. They should require bus and train operators to make
station, bus stop and train access improvements. They should require
the developers of private land to which the public has access
to provide minimum standards of pedestrian access, and they should
set appropriate targets to enable judgements to be made about
the relative performance of those who provide some elements of
Question (4): What can be learnt from good practice
both in England and elsewhere
We believe that real improvements will only
start to flow once designers have come to grips with the major
conceptual principle of modifying the behaviour of those who drive
vehicles, and not concentrating their efforts only on those who
suffer the by-products of vehicle dominance. When that change
has been achieved, practitioners will begin to be able to understand
why they have to change their professional practices. It is only
outside England, in mainland Europe in particular, that designs
based on the principle of controlling the source of danger, rather
than those affected by the danger, are commonplace.
Hence it is important to do two things:
to promote the principle of road
danger reduction, rather than that of road safety; and
to show "walking practitioners"
from all those professions involved, examples in cities and towns
elsewhere that have practiced the principle for many years and
which have shaped themselves accordingly.