Memorandum by Wakefield Transport and
Health Group (WTC 64)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
Increasing walking in towns and cities could
greatly benefit the health and social well-being of the population
in a number of ways. These include not only direct benefits from
increased walking per se, but also by reducing dependency on cars
The Wakefield District Transport and Health
Group strongly supports any measures to increase walking. This
group was set up in 1999 to encourage and develop a strategic
partnership approach to transport and health initiatives, co-ordinating
activities and maximising resources for joint work whenever possible.
The Group would welcome any measures to encourage and enable people
to use walking (and also cycling), as a means of healthy transport.
These should include restricting the amount
of space available to cars, reducing traffic speedsthrough
education, traffic calming and enforcementand using city
car parking charging policies. To be fully effective, the necessary
policies must be fully integrated across organisations and departments
within them (especially planning and highways).
A national strategy, and the setting of national
targets, would be useful. Large employers should be required to
provide facilities to enable and encourage staff and service users
to walk and cycle.
The primary reason to encourage walking is that
it is an easy way in which people can incorporate more physical
activity into their daily routines. Physical inactivity is a major
risk factor for coronary heart disease, hypertension and strokes,
obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, carcinoma of the colon and is
also linked to depressive illness. It is second only to tobacco
smoking as a cause of ill health and premature mortality in the
UK. It is well established that the greatest public health benefit
will come from encouraging people who are inactive to become active,
not by encouraging those who are already active to become more
so. Physical activity which is easy to undertake, does not involve
any expense, and is incorporated into daily routines is most likely
to be sustained. Walking is a perfect example of such an activity.
Secondly, as a large number of car journeys
are shortless than two miles in distancemany could
be replaced by walking. The second major benefit, therefore, would
come from the reduction in car usage. (This will have particular
benefits, because on short car journeys neither engines nor catalytic
converters are warmed up, and so operate inefficiently and thus
produce a greater quantity of emissions per mile driven). As motor
traffic is a significant contributor to urban air pollution and
global warming, both of which are major threats to human health,
any reduction in car use will be welcome.
Thirdly, walking will promote social interaction.
The physical environment can play an important part in developing
supportive communities where people feel free to walk, cycle,
use local facilities and interact with each other. Street space
can provide room for children's play and help them develop their
Young people are especially worthy of attention,
as childhood patterns of behaviour are often carried on into later
life. The increasing dependence on the car by young people gives
rise for concern on a number of counts. Children have less opportunity
to develop road and personal safety skills. Social interaction
is reduced and young people's independence and life skills can
Reducing car travel by young people may bring
several benefits, including improved health, development of social
and life skills, less pollution and greater awareness of environmental
issues. There is evidence to show that more active children are
more likely to become more active adults. For older children,
making their own way to school is a chance to learn skills for
life, becoming more independent and self-confident.
Cycling can also be a way of encouraging walking.
Good, segregated and extensive cycle paths would encourage people
out of their cars and ultimately lead to more walking. It might
be interesting to know if this is borne out by such behaviour
in Holland and Denmark.
It should also be recognised that people need
to walk in order to use public transport and that improving public
transport provision is also a means of increasing walking.
Locally in Wakefield District, we have set ourselves
a number of challenges. Some of these arise from the Local Transport
Plan, others from a local conference in March 2000, organised
by the Transport and Health Group. This resulted in a series of
1. Lower speeds in residential areas, including
adopting area-wide approaches.
2. Seek to educate people about transport
and health issues.
3. Support the involvement of communities
to allow them to influence transport planning.
4. Develop home zones within Wakefield.
5. Support organisations to be responsible
employers, developing and implementing travel plans.
6. Recognise the scope for the use of financial
measures (tax on fuel/engine size/work place parking etc) to change
7. Improve public transport provision.
The subsequent action plan has identified the
first three of these as current priorities. We hope to create
a number of 20 mph zones. We are also following the pilot home
zones in other areas with interest. We have an active Safe Routes
to School initiative and have Travel Officers who will be working
with local employers on travel plans.
Wakefield is a participant in the "Target"
European pilot project to reduce the impact of the car on the
environment by beginning the process of changing travel habits.
In addition, Wakefield and District Health Action Zone has supported
a Healthy Transport Project. The aim of this project is to reduce
dependency on the car and promote sustainable transport by encouraging
alternative modes of travel, in particular walking and cycling.
This will be achieved by working both strategically and at community
level to create safer environments, develop and implement travel
plans, promote positive health and demonstrate the benefits of
taking exercise. The project will build on the success of the
Safe Routes to School initiative by working with schools to develop
travel plans and involve young people in setting up travel projects
in their local areas.
We feel it is essential to identify barriers
to sustainable transport by involving communities and transport
users. We must find out how people move about now and what would
make it easier to use walking as a mode of travel, particularly
to understand issues of safety and fear of crime.
1. Transport 2000 Trust, 1999. A Safer Journey
to Schoola guide to school travel plans for parents, teachers
2. Pilling A, Holloway B, Turner J. Catching
them youngyoung people's travel and the scope for influencing
their travel behaviour. University of Manchester, 1998.
3. Health Education Authority, 1998. Transport
and Healtha briefing for health professionals and local
4. Wakefield Health Authority, 2000. Our
Future Healthannual report of the Director of Public Health
5. Wakefield Transport and Health Group,
2000. Transport for Health in Wakefieldconference report.
Public Health Project Manager
(on behalf of the Wakefield Transport and Health