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

Memorandum by the London Transport Users Committee (WTC 59)


  1.  The London Transport Users Committee (LTUC) is a body established under the Greater London Authority Act 2000. It is the statutory watchdog, representing the interests of users of transport provided, procured or licensed by Transport for London, the Underground, Heathrow Express, Eurostar and the national railways in and around London. Its remit requires it to consider the interests of pedestrians.

  2.  Walking is both the most sustainable mode and the most space efficient. In urban areas it should, combined with public transport, particularly buses be the mode of choice for the majority of journeys. By its nature walking is most useful, and most used, over shorter distances. Thus its encouragement would increase both local activity and the use of public transport, which in turn would improve urban areas. Walking involves physical activity and so is necessarily healthy, though there are, of course, safety issues for pedestrians that need to be tackled with slower speed and other safety initiatives. An increased modal share for walking will reduce dependency on cars.

  3.  As such there should be a presumption in favour of policies and proposals that support walking. Along with public transport, cycling and road safety improvements, walking should receive the overwhelming majority of public funding. In urban areas walking will compete for space with cars, especially parking and success in increasing modal share will undoubtedly mean restraining the car. Town centres and cities should adopt the transport hierarchy adopted by York placing the pedestrian, cyclist and public transport user firmly at the top of that hierarchy. It is often said that conflict may arise between buses and pedestrians or cyclists and pedestrians in pedestrianised areas. We believe that with good design these modes can and must co-exist in town and other centres which the pedestrian, cyclist, and bus user wish to access. This is vital if these modes are to be given a relative advantage over the private car. The walking element of any public transport journey should be regarded as an integral part of a quality journey. People may refuse to use good public transport if the route to the bus stop, train or tram is intimidating and of poor quality.

  4.  The decline in modal share of walking is partly a result of generations of land use and transport policies designed to accommodate and facilitate private motor transport, often at the expense of all other modes. Little regard was paid to the impact of these policies on other aspects of quality of life in towns and cities and has undoubtedly been a major factor in reducing the amount of walking. Increasing affluence and the willingness of society to accept the external costs of private transport has meant that private cars are within the financial reach of much more of the population. Perceptions of security, especially for women is another factor as are the seemingly unrelated changes in how society operates, eg parental choice in education and the centralisation of public services. The propensity of politicians, local authority professionals and funding mechanisms (the TPP process) to concentrate on major infrastructure projects to solve transport problems has meant the less glamorous modes have been ignored. The majority of walkers in towns are women and those with least political influence. It is not a coincidence that walking has therefore been regarded as the Cinderella mode.

  5.  The main obstacles to encouraging more walking is the sprawling nature of car dependent development that has meant that the alternative modes are at such a disadvantage compared to private car. The success of policies to create an Urban Renaissance in our traditional town and other centres will require complementary land use planning policies to restrain car dependent development in other areas. Parking taxes at out of town shopping centres is one such restraint suggested that has not, unfortunately, been adopted by Government, but it is essential if further flight of economic activity from town centres is to be stemmed.

  6.  The promotion of walking will be assisted by the World Square, pedestrianisation and Home Zone programmes, etc. There should be a presumption in favour of 20mph speed limits in residential and other heavily used pedestrian streets. Planning guidance, the Government's Walking Strategy and Local Transport Plan Guidance support and promote good practice. The Local Transport Plan process should be a particularly effective tool to determine the real, local improvements that will promote these modes. However, all this best practice, much of which has been around for many years, has yet to persuade and empower local authorities to adopt the radical measures necessary. The recent low key (near non-existent) launch of the Government's walking strategy and the focus of the 10 year transport plan on major infrastructure is sending the wrong messages to local authorities. The Government's change in emphasis away from traffic reduction to congestion reduction will discourage more walking in towns and cities.

  7.  The ability of local authorities to, in effect, ration road the space available in towns to the motorist and reallocate it to the more space efficient modes is limited by very vocal local opposition from either or both traders and residents. This difficulty is compounded if complementary land use planning and taxation measures to restrain car dependent development are not available to them.

January 2001

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