Memorandum by John Davison Esq (WTC 70)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
I have prepared this text, which includes some
relevant statistics, in response to the committee's request for
views on the following issues:
The contribution of walking to the Urban Renaissance,
healthy living and reducing dependency on cars
Many of the desirable features of urban life
require that walking be the dominant mode of transport. The harsh
reality is that pedestrians are dissuaded from making their highly
desirable trips because other factors conspire to make walking
appear highly unattractive and injurious to health.
The urban area is well suited to walking since
there are often facilities within close proximity and paved surfaces.
For a number of reasons not discussed here, there has been a continuing
exodus of population from many British urban areas. It has been
discerned that to abandon the urban fabric is undesirable and
moves are afoot to regenerate urban areas. The glue that holds
the urban area together is walking. Walking is also part of community
life. Towns and cities are places for meeting, communicating and
trading. What happens on the pavements in towns and cities is
an important part of civic, social, commercial and political life.
In smaller towns and villages and in residential areas where friends
and neighbours meet and exchange local news, walking helps develop
community life and is also part of a surveillance process that
Walking is the only mode available to everyone
(other than people with severe mobility impairment), regardless
of income, age, or location. Of all forms of passenger transport,
walking and cycling are least socially divisive, because most
people can use these modes of transport, and access to them is
not dependent on levels of income. Walking can also increase feelings
of independence. Walking needs no special equipment and is a healthy
form of recreation. Demographic effects need to be considered
in relation to walking. The population is ageing (60-69 year olds
walk 5 per cent more than 30-59 year olds). Walking is a very
important and suitable form of exercise for older people.
A practical example of the required revival
of an urban area is Sandwell. The Census shows that the number
of people living in Sandwell has fallen by over 5 per cent between
1981 and 1991, from 307,000 in 1981 to 290,100.
Despite the overall fall in population, the
total number of households in Sandwell increased by 2.5 per cent
between 1981 (110,670) and 1991 (113,400). The numbers of single
person and one parent households in Sandwell have increased, whilst
the number of households with children has fallen. One parent
households now account for one in seven of all households with
||West Midlands County
||England & Wales
|Other single person||9.9%
|2 or more cars||14.2%
Given that land taken for the storage of cars and the required
road carriageway capacity affect urban form, it is imperative
that car ownership in urban areas does not continue to grow. In
1991 in Sandwell, 45 per cent of households had no car (against
51 per cent in 1981), and many adults are clearly pedestrians
for part or the whole of everyday journeys. Despite the numbers
benefiting being so large, funding dedicating solely to benefit
pedestrians remains low. In Sandwell, even the resources needed
to complete the definitive map of rights of way has not been made
||England & Wales
|Aged 60/65 +||53,580
|(of which 75 +||21,300
The table above shows the current age structure of Sandwell's
population. It is predicted that the population of the Borough
will continue to fall, mainly as a result of young adults (25-34s)
moving out of Sandwell. At the same time, the number of very elderly
residents (aged over 85) is likely to grow, although there will
be falls in all age bands from 65-69 to 80-84. The number of households
is also set to rise, as single person and lone parent housesholds
The 1991 Census shows the proportion of ethnic groups
resident in Sandwell
||West Midlands County
||England & Wales
|Chinese and Other||2,413
In addressing the urban renaissance there should be an ambition
to address and involve all sections of the community and to nurture
existing pedestrians; for they are legion. Tackling the opportunity
of walking growth is a major social and transport issue needing
adequate resources and is a key component of the urban renaissance.
The reasons for the decline in walking and the main obstacles
to encouraging walking and increasing the number of journeys made
Walking along the public highway averaged across Great Britain,
is in decline. The fall was largest for those aged 11 to 15. Walking
to school has declined strongly in the past twenty years. this
has serious implications for the personal development of young
people including a decline in children's personal independence
Journey distances have lengthened as population and employment
have decentralised and destinations have become less accessible.
This has increased car dependency. Increased car ownership is
identified as a significant factor in the decline of walking.
Personal security fears appear to have increased significantly
in recent years. These have had an effect on the popularity of
walking, both as a primary mode and as a secondary mode in association
with public transport. Other reasons why people do not walk include
road safety, traffic noise, and breathing car exhaust fumes.
Pedestrians can face problems of poor quality footways and
footpaths in terms of pavement surface, kerbing, obstructions
(litter bins, scaffolding, seats etc), debris (snow, ice, leaves)
and space. Vehicles are often illegally parked on the footway.
Worsening these problems is the disruption of pedestrian routes
by side roads. At side roads when the pedestrian forms part of
the traffic on the major road, emerging vehicles are unlikely
to give way. At other times the pedestrian is at risk from vehicles
on the footway: approximately one third of vehicles' impacts on
pedestrians occur on the footway. The footway, which should be
the sole preserve of the pedestrians, even where it has been provided,
is not perceived to be safe.
Despite almost one in three journeys being made on foot,
facilities for walking as a form of transport are either absent
or neglected. To cross a road is sometimes either very difficult
or impossible. It is not simple to request from a highway authority
that a crossing facility be installed. For provision of pedestrian
crossings design advice is given in Department of Transport circulars.
The circulars tend to require large existing flows of pedestrians
to meet the criteria: an obvious absurdity since if large numbers
of pedestrians already find adequate facilities to cross then
a crossing is not needed.
In rural areas, failure to provide footways to compensate
for loss of safe facilities when vehicular traffic grows on all-purpose
roads is the most obvious example of neglect. Whilst the select
committee has chosen to focus on urban areas, a rural dweller
may be compelled to make a car journey which then continues into
the urban area by the nature of roads between the start of the
journey and the public transport facility. Traffic may be generated
or a journey suppressed if the availability of public transport
for the longer leg is negated by the lack of walking facilities
for the remainder.
Collision with vehicles in a real issue. The AA Foundation
for Road Safety Research Pedestrian Activity and Accident Risk,
1994, used pedestrian casualty records and gave exposures 411
casualties per 100 million km walked, or 66 casualties per 100
million roads crossed.
For provision of an idealised footpath network, with basic
requirements for walking including availability, negotiability,
safety, economy, convenience, comfort and amenity, the Department
of Transport has published circulars. Many of these publications
are used to justify meandering and inconvenient routes. There
are many examples of diversions and barriers to divert pedestrians
in order to make vehicular traffic management easier. One design
guide, only relatively recently withdrawn, had a hierarchy of
new urban roads with the most direct road, the distributor road,
not permitted to have a footway alongside. In general the design
guides expect the pedestrian not to have just arrived in town,
and also not to need to complete a journey quickly.
Transport surveys and plans often fail to consider walking
and all short trips (of which walking forms a very high proportion).
Without there being consideration of walking as transport, it
seems unlikely that facilities for pedestrians will be improved.
What should be done to promote walking, including the creation
of the city squares, the role of pedestrianisation, Home Zones,
additional measures to restrain traffic, the harmonisation of
walking and public transport and improved safety and security
To encourage walking, two factors are journey length and
the environment. In terms of environment, if walking is to be
promoted as a travel mode, it is important that pedestrians feel
safe from personal attack and from accidents with vehicles. For
journey length, if pedestrian routes are created, they must minimise
route detour and keep delays to a minimum. The walking routes
should be properly marked, and kept passable in bad weather.
There is a an urgent need to pursue Road Traffic reduction.
Adjacent fast moving and incessant traffic is a disincentive to
walking. There is also a need to acknowledge that building car
parks and roads is not a solution to growth in vehicular road
Walking is often a part of a journey with public transport
forming another part. Public transport facilities need to be signposted
and the level of service offered made clear. Provision, as a minimum,
of timetable information, is required if the uncertainties are
to be reduced.
Correcting the urban form requires that the links between
land use and transport are not only stated in documents, but are
put into practice by bringing together the practitioners from
the various disciplines.
Provision for pedestrians in urban areas does not necessarily
mean pedestrianisation. Some lavish schemes are rolled out in
the centre of an urban area, and work well during business trading
hours. A gentler programme might cover a wider area and create
a network of trading and habitable streets perceived as safe after
dark. Where types of trading are regarded as not well suited to
pedestrianisation, the physical environment so completely fails
to accommodate pedestrians that it is very hostile to them. In
some areas it is not possible or desirable to have full pedestrianisation,
and so areas of shared use have been developed. Residential areas
lend themselves to shared use with low vehicular speeds. Adapting
design to local conditions is the key.
The potential for achieving improvements through planning
New development within established streets should
positively address the street frontage
Larger redevelopment schemes should be formed
around logical pedestrian routes linked into the wider pedestrian
No new developments should be permitted without
internal pedestrian linkages and connections to local roads and
public transport facilities.
Every opportunity should be taken to create a
network of town squares, civic squares, and pocket parks, to enhance
the pedestrian environment.
Areas perceived to be empty between certain hours
because they are zoned for employment only should be reviewed
as they can feel intimidating to walk through.
A perceived failing of urban areas is the sense of not being
cared for. For management of vehicular transport, the measures
are physical (such as signs etc) and relatively expensive, with
policing at a low level. For walking and cycling, the reverse
situation applies. On transport. Capital Spending (such as new
construction) looks dramatic. Whilst arguing for spending on staff
(such as continuation of Walk to School initiatives may require,
policing etc) and on maintenance, is much less persuasive.
What can be learnt from good practice both in England and Elsewhere?
Many councils do have policies concerning pedestrians although
these vary greatly in scope and objectives. A study of policies
in overseas cities identified a growing awareness in the cities
observed of the importance of walking as a mode of transport.
Amongst examples of policy initiatives used in the city to encourage
walking were: (a) reducing traffic speeds to 30 kph, (b) widening
footways on main roads, and (c) improving the provision of pedestrian
phases at traffic signals. In main land Europe's city centres,
pedestrianisation of the main shopping streets has been the norm,
usually in conjunction with the introduction of rail-based public
transport improvements and daytime closure to cars.
In GB, developers of wholly new shopping centres such as
Merry Hill (W Mids) and Metrocentre (Tyne & Wear) have identified
advantage in excluding vehicles (and the weather). These are "out
of town"; the formula for a pleasant shopping environment
needs refinement before it can be transplanted to existing retail
areas. In existing run-down urban areas there are considerable
pressures to not over-regulate development, and a desire by local
authorities to accommodate the promoter so that the money is not
taken elsewhere. The lesson here is to establish National Standards
on the future form of British towns and cities and to market these
standards to all of the relevant practitioners. In the case of
Merry Hill as it stands, were a housing development to be erected
within a mile, a walk to the local shops would involve passage
through featureless and windswept car parks and negotiation of
heavily trafficked distributor roads and tails of roundabouts.
Birmingham's Broad Street, close to the City Centre but separated
from it by an inner ring road, was reconnected by reinstating
the level link on foot. Subsequent widening and re-paving of footways
reinforced the message that pedestrians are welcome. Previously
a street of empty premises and struggling businesses, business
is now booming.
In Birmingham in the 1970s, as part of a railway service
enhancement various stations were opened. University, and Five
Ways stations are two examples where there is no car parking and
where patronage is high.
In 1998 and 1999, Birmingham's Brindley Place development
was opened. Large areas are pedestrianised and busy through much
of the day and night. Some of the success is attributed to the
"mixed-use" concept so that it is an area of employment,
habitation, and recreation so that people are always around. The
development is, however, maintained to a high standard, and staff
are always on hand (as is CCTV monitoring).
Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate skills
Whilst some councils have policies concerning pedestrians,
these vary greatly in scope and objectives. Sandwell MBC is one
of the more active authorities and is developing a Walking Strategy.
The Strategy sets out to address and reverse the decline in walking
and to improve the health of its residents and the quality of
life of those living and working in the area. There is no doubt
that the process is an educational one for the officers of that
Especially since the era of Beeching on the railways, the
presumption has been that public transport must decline and car
traffic must grow. This notion was not ever clearly articulated
as its impracticality would soon be evident: if every adult had
a vehicle, town and city residential streets would not have enough
space to store them. Government departments local authorities
and consulting engineers have spent the past 40 years designing
and creating an environment round the needs of vehicular traffic.
It has been evident of late that business managers in passenger
railway companies find it difficult to accept that the public
can walk from their home to a new station and rarely consider
adding anything other than Park and Ride.
Whilst now the Institution of Civil Engineers accepts that
its Royal Charter embraces the concept of "Sustainability"
and the issues of resource use and integrated transport are embodied
in the education, training and professional development, the decision
makers may not have been won over. There is a chronic shortage
of professionals, particularly in senior positions, with the appropriate
outlook and technical skills to create environments where using
one's feet for transport is not only advantageous, but a pleasure.
Whether all Government Departments, their agencies, including
the Highways Agency, and local authorities are taking appropriate
measures, and in particular whether Local Transport Plans, PPG
13 and the Government Paper, Encouraging Walking, are adequate.
The Pedestrians Association was disappointed that the booklet
"Encouraging Walking (2000)" failed to include targets
for increasing the level of walking. The inclusion of targets
can give a measure of how successful actions have been and a comparison
of commitment of different areas to a walking strategy. Earlier
in my response I included some characteristics relating to Sandwell;
a comparison of these with other areas would stress the welcome
diversity of life in GB. Uniform responses are not a feature of
diverse cultures. I argue that "Encouraging Walking",
a little known document, should be widely and freely available
and it is that availability for which targets should initially
The Highways Agency (HA) are definitely not taking appropriate
measures to encourage walking. HA make the right noises about
urban areas and about modal shift from car travel to public transport,
but they are a longer journeys organisation. HA has yet to walk
away from its past tendency not to accommodate pedestrians. Examples
from only a few years ago include:
On line upgrading of a section of the A40 in Oxfordshire
forming part of a link between two towns (and increasing vehicle
speeds from 60mph to 70) was not to include a surfaced footpath
in the verge. This was on the grounds that a path would encourage
people to walk there and result in casualties when stray vehicles
veered off the carriageway.
The A420 (Oxfordshire) Kingston Bagpuize bypass
(opened 1991) which threads amongst villages created substantial
opportunity for integration of redundant lengths of road into
a walking network. In preference the redundant lengths were entirely
stopped up: not even one metre of footway was constructed.
Planning Guidance PPG 13 suggests that local authorities
should aim to encourage forms of development which encourage walking,
cycling and public transport use. To meet these aims, the choice
should be maintained and improved for people to include walking
in the journey between homes and facilities. Physical measures
can include traffic calming, environmental improvements, improved
lighting, provision of wider pavements and narrower carriageways,
and pedestrian-friendly road crossings that avoid detours, long
waits, or underpasses.
Walking is an essential part of much car and almost all public
transport travel. Bus stops are usually accessed on foot, and
about 80 per cent of rail travellers arrive at or leave the station
on foot. The provision of good pedestrian links to public transport
facilities is therefore an essential element in promoting sustainable,
integrated transport. The experience on the ground is discouraging;
in 1999 the Pedestrians Association asked Birmingham City Council
to add pedestrian phases at an intermediate junction on an urban
road linking the major bus routes on the Hagley Road to the Botanical
Gardens. In response the council refused to countenance the expenditure
and described a complex alternative route which would not be obvious
to a visitor.
Guidance is not only available from Government; the Institution
of Highways and Transportation has produced, in year 2000, a set
of guidelines covering provision for walking. The main purpose
of Guidelines for Providing for Journeys on Foot is to describe
best practice in planning and providing for pedestrians within
the existing UK legislative framework. It is a technical document
to support the policies contained in the 1998 White Paper, "A
New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone". The Guidelines
advise on how to plan and implement walking measures as part of
a wider integrated transport strategy; they also provide guidance
on how to review and update the walking aspects of the strategy.
The Guidelines are intended for use by transport planners, traffic
engineers, design engineers, maintenance engineers, travel awareness
officers and architects, in both the public and private sectors.
They are also intended to assist Councillors, voluntary groups
and others who wish to pursue improvements to the pedestrian environment.
In conclusion, there is adequate guidance, and the opportunity
for local and national government to require that it is adhered
to. It is suggested that:
The booklet "Encouraging Walking" be
In Local Transport Plans a sum for facilities
for walking based on population should be the standard (rather
than the current number of miles of road), and it should be the
standard that is enhanced when application is made identifying
Whether greater priority should be given to measures to promote
walking, including a grater share of the Government budget and
the re-allocation of road space
Despite pedestrians outnumbering vehicles, the design and
layout of shopping and residential areas often gives dominance
to cars. Even when vehicular traffic has been reduced on a road,
such as through construction of an alternative route or through
conversion to one-way traffic, it is rare for road space to be
allocated to pedestrians. In residential areas there is still
a tendency, which should be reversed, for the green margin between
the carriageway and the footway to be re-allocated for parking.
In some shopping areas, there is a need to assign a far greater
width to comfortably accommodate high flows of pedestrians.
Whilst London's direct provision for pedestrians is not demonstrably
better than other British cities, the facilities within walking
distance of peoples' homes is superior. A prime example is the
network of surface and underground railways. Most of London's
stations do not have car parks.
The promotion of walking should be moved towards the top
of the list for health, for planning, and for transport. If even
a fraction of the patience and resources devoted to Park and Ride
were to be developed to Walk and Ride, it would be progress. We
have made mistakes with past transport decisions and we have left
some communities severed by grandiose urban road schemes. We have
now an opportunity to recognise that whilst comfort and convenience
has steadily increased for other modes of transport, the walking
experience has been left behind. A greater share of the budget
to pedestrians is a benefit not only to them, but also to the
physical and social nature of our urban areas.
Throughout the 1990s, Governments have recognised the relationship
between Transport and Land Use. Recent announcements are very
specific about certain measures, but seem not to mention walking
The Government has already kicked off many initiatives that
will help towns and cities, such as raising education standards
and tackling planning and housing issues. At the September 2000
Core Cities Conferencea summit comprising Birmingham, Leeds,
Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and BristolLocal
Government and Regions Minister Hilary Armstrong said that the
country needed strong, thriving and competitive cities throughout
the regions, not just in London.
In November 2000 it was announced that the budget for repairing
local roads in England was to be doubled to £1,000 million.
These resources£535 million in 2001-02 and £555
million in 2002-03will be made available to local authorities
to spend on highway maintenance and will be enough to start restoring.
270,000 km of local roads
The distribution to individual authorities is based on the
length and condition of their roads and the number of bridges
that require strengthening. These capital resources provided through
the Local Transport Plan settlement are in addition to the support
for local highway maintenance provided through Revenue Support
Grant. The basis of the spending is, unfortunately, against the
spirit of encouraging walking. The authority which has boosted
its road mileage through making provision for cars and suppressing
walking, receives the reward.
The importance of walking as the mode of transport in urban
areas did not appear to in figure the November 2000 White Paper.
"Our Towns and Cities: the Future" which did include:
A comprehensive package of fiscal incentives aimed
at encouraging people to invest in urban areas
New Planning Policy guidance to put urban renaissance
at the heart of the urban planning system
A drive for better education and health services
and more access to jobs
Up to 12 new Urban Regeneration Companies and
five more Millennium Villages