Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Oxford Pedestrian Association (WTC 58)


  Walking is safe, enjoyable, environmentally benign, and an ideal way for many people to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine.


(i)  Urban Renaissance

    —  Improving communication between citizens

    —  Increasing the number of people walking the streets will help to reduce crime1

    —  More walking means fewer cars, with immediate environmental benefits in terms of reduced pollution (both noise and fumes): reducing the stress and dangers of urban life creates a more attractive and pleasant urban environment.

(ii)  Healthy living

Physical activity and mortality

  A major review article and recommendation in 1995 stated that approximately 12 per cent of deaths in the United States are attributable to lack of physical activity, and concluded that every adult should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week. It defined moderate activity as that which expends four-seven kcal/minute, such as brisk walking for leisure or transport.2 A review that categorised the population as sedentary, irregularly active, regularly active, or vigorously active found that the greatest health benefits would accrue from increasing the exercise levels of the irregularly active group.3 A meta-analysis of physical activity in the prevention of coronary heart disease supported a dose-response relationship between exercise and protection from coronary heart disease.4

  A prospective study of over 13,000 men and women found that those in the least fit quintile had relative risks of all-cause mortality of 1.58 (1.32, 1.89) for men, and 1.94 (1.30, 2.88) for women, compared with those in the most fit quintile, with a strong and graded association between physical fitness and mortality.5 In a study of 10,269 Harvard alumni those who were previously sedentary but took up moderate physical activity during the course of the study had a 41 per cent lower risk of death from CHD than those who remained sedentary, and added 0.72 years of life (0.14, 1.29).6 An earlier study of 16,936 Harvard alumni found that those expending less than 2,000 kcal/week had a relative risk of fatal heart attack of 2.01 compared to those expending over 2,000 kcal/week (p=0.001).7 A follow-up to this study found that death rates declined steadily as energy expenditure increased from below 500 kcal/week to 3,500 kcal/week, with rates 25-33 per cent lower in those expending over 2,000 kcal/week compared to those expending less than this. By the age of 80 the amount of additional life attributable to adequate exercise, as opposed to sedentariness, ranged from one to over two years.8 There has until recently been a dearth of good evidence for the benefits of activity in women, but this situation has now been redressed with several large, high-quality studies showing equivalent benefits to those found in men.9 10 11

Physical activity and morbidity

  In addition to the effects on cardiovascular morbidity discussed above, regular exercise has been shown to be beneficial in many conditions12 including diabetes13 14 and insulin sensitivity,15 16 hypertension,17 18 stroke,19 elevated blood lipids,20 21 obesity,16 and cancer.22

  There is a study evidence to support a relationship between physical activity and psychological well-being23 24 and a recent review25 shows that low to moderate physical activity has beneficial effects on depression, stress,26 mood, self-esteem and premenstrual syndrome. Physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function in the elderly,27 and reduces falls.28 Regular exercise allows elderly people to maintain a reasonable degree of fitness for activities of daily living,29 and a review of the relationship between physical activity and hip fractures found a protective effect of the order of a 50 per cent reduction in the more physically active subjects.30

The reasons for the decline in walking, and the main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the number of journeys made on foot

  Post-war planning priorities have encouraged car use, increasing distances between home and shops/employment/entertainment/etc such that walking becomes impractical

  The recent development of out-of-town business parks, shopping centres, and entertainment complexes often necessitate motorised transport for access

  Even where journeys are potentially walkable, inconvenient and dangerous street conditions discourage walkers, eg

    —  not enough and poorly placed crossings;

    —  uninviting underpasses;

    —  railings, ostensibly intended to protect pedestrians from traffic, restrict choice of route and often increase journey length;

    —  narrow, inadequate and poorly-maintained pavements; and

    —  proximity of traffic creates an unappealing environment and intimidates pedestrians.

  The result of the above is that pedestrians feel like second-class citizens; this makes walking something to endure rather than enjoy.

What should be done to promote walking, etc?

  Reducing the volume and speed of traffic throughout town centres and residential areas, especially in the vicinity of schools and shopping centres.

  Immediate reduction of speed limits in all urban and residential areas, with an upper limit of 20mph.

  Development of more sophisticated, evidence-based, measures to match speed limits to the local environment, with research into new methods of control and enforcement.

  More effective campaigns to raise awareness of health benefits of walking, especially targeting school children and their parents.

  Traffic measures to give pedestrians priority over traffic, eg more generous pedestrian phases at traffic lights, increased frequency of pedestrian crossings, wider pavements, etc.

  Greater disincentives to car use for short journeys eg congestion charging within towns, increased parking charges, reduced capacity of city centre car parks.

  Improved integration of public transport systems.

  Travel to work by modes other than car should be generously rewarded by employers; the government could offer fiscal incentives for this.

What can be learned from good practice both in England and elsewhere?

  We in the United Kingdom could learn from the many continental and Scandinavian countries with higher urban walking rates than ours31 32

Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate skills and training

  Appropriate skills within Local Authority Highways Departments are lacking, given the culture which has given greater priority to the needs of motorised traffic for so many years.

  Walking schemes are given too low a priority and receive inadequate funding and officer-time to make a real impact on the pedestrian environment.

  There is an urgent need to appoint properly trained local authority Pedestrian Officers to give practical priority to improving the walking environment.

Whether all Govt Depts and local authorities are taking appropriate measures and whether LTPs, PPG13 and "Encouraging Walking" are adequate

  Oxfordshire's five-year LTP has elicited from the DETR the comment "the walking strategy is very strong", but clearly defined practical measures and the necessary funding are essential to implement the strategy.

  If local authority Walking Strategies are to achieve their aims they need to be given statutory status, and earmarked funding.

  As an example of a local transport strategy which claims to give priority to pedestrians and seems to be highly regarded nationally, the Oxford Transport Strategy (OTS) has in fact only succeeded in improving conditions for pedestrians in one street so far (Cornmarket), while several areas of the city centre may be actually worse for walkers than pre-OTS. There have to date been no measures to promote walking into the city centre.

  The national targets for walking, that had been present in drafts, were dropped from the published version of Encouraging Walking: advice to local authorities; as a result the document is inadequate.

Whether greater priority should be given to promote walking, including greater share of Govt budget and re-allocation of road space

  If walking is to be given the appropriate and necessary priority it requires:

    —  Higher levels of local spending

    —  Mandatory Pedestrian Officers to ensure proper street planning for foot transport

    —  Formal recognition of walking as a valid means of transport.

  Central government must empower Local Authorities to create better conditions for pedestrians, including:

    —  Home Zones

    —  20 mph speed limits in town centres and residential areas

    —  Measures to reduce traffic volumes

    —  Wider pavements, and pedestrianised central areas.

Whether national targets should be set and a National Strategy published

  National targets should be re-instated in an updated National Walking Strategy to force Local Authorities to devote more time and money to implementing the necessary reforms, and according walking the status it requires.

Corinne Grimley Evans, Ray Jones, and Harry Rutter

Oxford Pedestrians Association

5 January 2001


  1 Cities for a small country, R Rogers and A Power, Faber, London 2000

  2 Pate RR, Pratt M, Blair SN, Haskell WL, Macera CA, Bouchard C et al. Physical activity and public health. A recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. JAMA1995;273:402-7

  3 Powell KE, Blair SN. The public health burdens of sedentary living habits: theoretical but realistic estimates. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1994;26:851-6

  4 Berlin JA, Colditz GA. A meta-analysis of physical activity in the prevention of coronary heart disease. Am J Epidemiol 1990;132:612-28

  5 Blair SN, Kohl HW, Paffenbarger RS, Clark DG, Cooper KH, Gibbons LW. Physical fitness and all-cause mortality. A prospective study of healthy men and women. JAMA 1989;262:2395-401

  6 Paffenbarger RS, Hyde RT, Wing AL, Lee IM, Jung DL, Kampert JB. The association of changes in physical-activity level and other lifestyle characteristics with mortality among men. N Engl J Med 1993;328:538-45

  7 Paffenbarger R, Wing Al, Hyde RT. Physical activity as an index of heart attack risk in college alumni. Am J Epidemiol 1978;142:889-903

  8 Paffenbarger RS, Hyde RT, Wing Al, Hsieh CC. Physical activity, all-cause mortality, and longevity of college alumni. N Engl J Med 1986;314:605-13

  9 Kushi LH, Fee RM, Folsom AR, Mink PJ, Anderson KE, Sellers TA. Physical activity and mortality in postmenopausal women. JAMA 1997;277:1287-92

  10 Manson JE, Hu FB, Rich-Edwards JW, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC et al. A prospective study of walking as compared with vigorous exercise in the prevention of coronary heart disease in women. N Engl J Med 1999;341:650-8

  11 Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, Manson JE, Rimm EB, Willett WC. Primary prevention of coronary heart disease in women through diet and lifestyle. N Engl J Med 2000;343:16-22

  12 Morris JN, Hardman AE, Walking to health. Sports Med 1997;23:3096-32

  13 Melmrich SP, Ragland DR, Leung RW, Paffenbarger RS Jr. Physical activity and reduced occurrence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med 1991;325:147-52

  14 Horton ES. Exercise and decreased risk of NIDDM. N Engl J Med 1991;325:196-8

  15 Mayer-Davis EJ, D'Agostino R, Karter AJ, Haffner SM, Rewers MJ, Saad M et al. Intensity and amount of physical activity in relation to insulin sensitivity: the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study. JAMA 1998;279:669-74

  16 Ross R, Dagnone D, Jones PJ, Smith H, Paddags A, Hudson R et al. Reduction in obesity and related comorbid conditions after diet-induced weight loss or exercise-induced weight loss in men. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 2000;133:92-103

  17 Nelson L, Jennings GL, Esler MD, Korner PI. Effect of changing levels of physical activity on blood-pressure and haemodynamics in essential hypertension. Lancet 1986;2:473-6

  18 Kelley GA, Kelley KS. Progressive resistance exercise and resting blood pressure: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Hypertension 2000;35:838-43

  19 Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Ascherio A, Rexrode KM, Willett WC et al. Physical activity and risk of stroke in women. JAMA 2000;283:2961-7

  20 Wood PD, Stefanick ML, Williams PT, Haskell WL. The effects on plasma lipoproteins of a prudent weight-reducing diet, with or without exercise, in overweight men and women. N Engl J Med 1991;325:461-6

  21 Stefanick ML, Mackey S, Sheehan M, Ellsworth N, Haskell WL, Wood PD. Effects of diet and exercise in men and postmenopausal women with low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol. N Engl J Med 1998;339:12-20

  22 Thune I, Lund E. Physical activity and risk of colorectal cancer in men and women. Br J Cancer 1996;73:1134-40

  23 Steptoe A, Butler N. Sports participation and emotional well being in adolescents. Lancet 1996;347:1789-92

  24 Hassmen P, Koivula N, Uutela A. Physical exercise and psychological well-being: a population study in Finland. Prev Med 2000;30:17-25

  25 Macauley D. Benefits and hazards of exercise. London, BMJ Books 1999

  26 Roth DL, Holmes DS. Influence of aerobic exercise training and relaxation training on physical and psychologic health following stressful life events. Psychosom Med 1987;49:355-65

  27 Kramer AF, Hahn S, Cohen NJ, Banich MT, McAuley E, Harrison CR et al. Ageing, fitness and neurocognitive function. Nature 1999;400:418-9

  28 Province MA, Hadley EC, Hornbrook MC, Lipsitz LA, Miller JP, Mulrow CD et al. The effects of exercise on falls in elderly patients. A preplanned meta-analysis of the FICSIT Trials. Frailty and Injuries: Cooperative Studies of Intervention Techniques. JAMA 1995;273:1341-7

  29 Fentem PH. ABC of sports medicine. Benefits of exercise in health and disease. BMJ 1994;308:1291-5

  30 Jaokimsen RM, Magnus JH, Fonnebo V. Physical activity and predisposition for hip fractures: a review. Osteoporos Int 1998;7:503-13

  31 A New London, R Rogers and M Fisher, Penguin, London 1992

  32 Innovative urban transport planning—examples from Europe: car-free town centres and residential areas—utopia or reality?, C Hass-Klau, in T Fletcher and A McMichael (Eds), Health at the crossroads: transport policy and urban health, Wiley, Chichester 1997

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