Memorandum by Salsa (WTC 67)
WALKING IN TOWNS & CITIES
The Salsa (sustainable access to leisure sites
and amenities) project aims to increase the numbers of children
walking and cycling to leisure facilities in the London Borough
of Ealing. Research with parents and children in 1999 identified
the barriers to walking and cycling and the local improvements
desired before parents would consider allowing their children
more freedom to travel independently. The construction of four
safe routes in Spring 2000 linked densely populated residential
areas with their local libraries, parks, swimming pools and other
The project has been funded by the EU Life Environment
programme and is supported by 13 partner organisations. One of
the partners, Mayer Hillman, is also responding to your inquiry
and I have therefore tried not to duplicate the points he has
Ealing is working on a number of initiatives
seeking to enable and encourage walking. Several safe routes to
schools projects have been completed and a pilot "home zone"
project area is underway. The intention of creating safe routes
to leisure tackles the issue of children's journeys outside school
time. This is another step towards a comprehensive network of
pedestrian and cycle routes linking residential areas with local
amenities including shops, businesses and public services.
By introducing schemes like pay and display
car parking at large leisure facilities customers are encouraged
to consider other forms of travel.
1. The Barriers to Children's Independent Mobility
The key findings from the research undertaken
with 800 parents by MORI in June 1999 are summarised below.
Only a minority let their children
walk alone in the local area. Even smaller proportions allow them
to cycle or use buses alone. Of those who do allow their children
some independence, the majority worry when their children are
Reasons for concern primarily focus
on the perceived, yet very small, risk of abduction or sexual
attack, as well as the higher risk of a traffic accident. Other
key concerns include exposure to drugs, being bullied or being
These concerns and the lack of independence
for many, means significant proportions of parents feel their
children do not get enough exercise and they spend too much time
in the inactive pursuits of watching television and playing computer
Attitudes towards local leisure facilities
are divided, with higher levels of satisfaction among the middle
classes and parents in two of the four target areas.
The key reason for satisfaction with
local facilities is a perception of a wide range of facilities.
Similarly the key reason for dissatisfaction is a perceived lack
The majority agree that too many
people in Ealing rely on their car and local developments exacerbate
this dependence. This is reflected in respondents' behaviourthe
majority say their children are frequently driven to local leisure
A range of changes are advocated
by parents to make it safer for their children to walk and cycle
alone in Ealingmore police on the beat, encourage Ealing
residents to "look out" for children, a general reduction
in speed limits and better street lighting.
Full copies of both the MORI qualitative and
quantitative reports are available on request.
3. Desired Improvements to Enable Walking.
The key fears that parents have with regards
their children walking alone in the local area are clearly reflected
in the changes they would like to see implemented.
Two-thirds want more police on the beat to counter
crime (65 per cent). More than two in five favour a campaign to
encourage residents to look out for the safety of children (43
per cent), while the most popular traffic-related change is reducing
the speed limits on roads which is noted by a similar proportion
(39 per cent). Improved street lighting (31 per cent), more traffic
calming measures (29 per cent) and the introduction of more pedestrian
crossings (25 per cent) are all cited by at least one in four.
Analysis of the research indicated that available
resources would be best targeted towards children age nine to
14. Older children make their own decisions about mode of travel
and younger children are not considered mature enough by the majority
of parents to cope with a high level of independence.
Salsa has targeted children in these age groups
Children are concerned about the
environmental impact of motorised transport.
Children's behaviour is more easily
changed than adults.
"Good" habits established
in childhood influence decisions made in later life.
The last point is particularly important because
it seems unlikely that children who have been transported everywhere
by car will become adults who regard walking as a valid and normal
transport model Enabling parents to feel confident about allowing/encouraging
children to make local trips without adult escort is a crucial
measure in overcoming car dependence and improving public health.
Salsa Project Manger