Transport and the economy

Memorandum from Living Streets


· Living Streets considers that the business case for investment in low-carbon, cost-effective transport infrastructure is stronger than ever in the current economic circumstances

· From our research and experience, Living Streets considers that spending on pedestrian infrastructure, particularly ensuring that rural and urban housing is linked to high streets and district centres, has considerable benefits relative to its costs, is optimally delivered by local mechanisms and well-suited to community decision-making, and is a tangible and value for money way to boost both economic growth and quality of life

· Living Streets recognises the need for a wider context of transport investment which also supports, promotes and expands public transport and cycling as alternatives to the car, and the potential benefits of such an approach to economic growth, particularly in low-growth or economically deprived regions

· In order to achieve this broader vision, Living Streets would favour greater flexibility between capital and revenue expenditure in the settlement with local transport authorities

· Living Streets considers that methods of assessing proposed transport schemes should be clarified and improved, particularly where elements such as health and environmental outcomes impact on future public expenditure

· Living Streets welcomes the announcement of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, having advocated its establishment, and see a substantial fund, a balance between revenue and capital spending, ambitious criteria, third sector involvement and an emphasis on walking and public realm issues as crucial to the Fund’s effectiveness

1. About Living Streets

1.1 Living Streets is the national charity that stands up for pedestrians. With our supporters we work to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets, where people want to walk. We work with professionals and politicians to make sure every community can enjoy vibrant streets and public spaces.

1.2 The history of Living Streets demonstrates the strength of our agenda. We were formed in 1929, as the Pedestrians Association, and have grown to include a network of 100 branches and affiliated groups, 28 local authority members and a growing number of corporate supporters. As well as working to influence policy on a national and local level, we also carry out a range of practical work to train professionals in good street design, and enable local communities to improve their own neighbourhoods. We run high profile national campaigns such as Walk to School and Walk to Work Week, to encourage people to increase their walking levels and realise a vision of vibrant, living streets across the UK.

1.3 Living Streets’ response focuses on the business case for walking and cycling (collectively referred to as active travel) infrastructure and promotion as the most cost-effective, practical, noticeable, healthy, green and egalitarian area for transport investment. The response draws on our 80 year experience of standing up for pedestrians. Our arguments and evidence led to such road safety milestones as the introduction of speed limits and the driving test in the 1930s, the green cross code in the 1970s, and 20 mph zones in the 1990s.

2. Responding to the inquiry: the economic case for walking

2.1 Living Streets was delighted to have made a tangible contribution of evidence to the Eddington Study, which reflected a considerable body of research on active travel in its verdict on the relative benefits and costs of active travel schemes, stating that they have ‘the potential to provide benefits to the economy and welfare through both reduced congestion and the associated likely reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and improved health’ [1] .

2.2 Since the publication of the Eddington Report, the policy landscape has been dominated by the economic downturn. Whilst acknowledging the Secretary of State’s decision to ‘prioritise those transport investment schemes which support economic growth’, we argue that this should be done in such a way as to prevent detriment to, and where possible enhance, the environment, public health and overall quality of life. We advocate that the costs and benefits of projects are assessed in such a way as to recognise the full economic and social value of positive environmental and health outcomes emerging from active transport projects, and ensure that the projects funded are those which provide the maximum public benefit in the most cost-effective manner. We argue in particular that walking schemes have a measurable, positive impact on efficiency and deliver benefits far beyond their cost by reducing the necessity for public expenditure through improved health and wellbeing. Additionally, in constrained economic circumstances it becomes all the more important that all modes of transport pay their full cost to the environment, as recommended by Eddington, in order that an informed assessment of costs and benefits can be made.

2.3 In this context, we note with approval the priority placed by the Eddington Report on reducing urban congestion and the economic benefits attributed to this, and suggest that the economic downturn has only seen this increase in importance as businesses struggle to make the most of their resources. Eddington quotes a 2004 British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) survey in which ‘three quarters of businesses said that transport delays had caused them to incur increased operating costs in the form of penalties for late deliveries, overtime costs, missed meetings affecting contract negotiations and lower productivity’ [2] , as well as lost person-hours. Taking the same series of surveys, these problems have only escalated in the time since the Eddington Report was published. The BCC reported in 2008 that over 85% of businesses considered congestion to be a problem that has a material impact on their livelihoods. [3] The costs per year, as estimated by businesses, of problems with the UK’s transport infrastructure stood at £17,350 per business on average in 2008 [4] and had gone up to £19,080 [5] by the time of a comparable BCC survey in 2010, an increase of 10%. Throughout, a lack of alternatives to the car has increasingly been reported by businesses as a key reason for congestion. In light of the pressing need for job creation and attracting inward investment, congestion reduction is even more important to business now than it was at the time of the Eddington Study.

2.4 In terms of congestion alone, there are huge benefits delivered by active travel. As we noted in a recent joint letter to Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, in support of Smarter Travel Choices (STC) programmes: ‘The evidence… shows a strong case for supporting the local implementation of low cost, high value STC packages. Your department’s own report showed that they delivered exceptional value for money (a Benefit : Cost Ratio of 4.5 for congestion alone), reductions in car-driver trips of 9% and in emissions from car driving of 4.6%, as well as significant health and local environmental benefits.’ [6] In Living Streets’ own experience, an independent evaluation of the Walk Once a Week (WoW) scheme found that walking rates were on average 9% higher than the National Travel Survey average where schools were taking part in WoW than where they were not – with associated reductions in congestion, health and environmental benefits and social benefits. The evaluation calculated a benefit: cost ratio of 3.1 for the WoW scheme nationally. [7]

2.5 As well as ‘soft’ behavioural change schemes, ‘hard’ physical infrastructure to promote walking and cycling has consistently shown benefit-cost ratios that are hugely higher than road schemes. [8] Our experience indicates a particularly sustained and tangible effect where soft and hard measures are combined, as with Living Streets’ ‘Fitter for Walking’ project delivery. In Marks Gate, in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, resurfacing, dropped-kerbs and raised tables on desire lines, clutter reduction and pedestrian signage through a problematic subway were allied with community planting, a clean-up and an art project with local children to make route maps. Residents have responded strongly to the improvements, taking pride in the work they’ve contributed to the overall project, and in their neighbourhood. In Bensham, Gateshead, a road scheme linking several schools in the Orthodox Jewish community has widened footways, reduced clutter, and introduced a build out and raised table to improve pedestrian crossing. This has been combined with community events encouraging pledges from parents to walk their children to school. Having several community leaders on board has reinforced the message that too many vehicles are a source of danger, rather than being a safer way of getting large families to school.

2.6 Nationwide, Fitter for Walking schemes in areas with high obesity rates have seen 75% of people on the scheme reporting walking more and 64% feeling fitter and healthier as a result. Meanwhile, national research has explored the potential for improvements to the public realm that enable more walking to lock in economic benefits to the local economy [9] .

2.7 The Department for Transport report referred to adds that ‘Including environmental, consumer-benefit and health effects on the basis of recent Department for Transport modelling could broadly double the congestion-only figure.’ [10] We would draw attention to the positive implications of mainstreaming active travel for both public expenditure and quality of life, as indicated in the Eddington Report and in authoritative research on a broad range of interlinked but separate subjects, from the established subjects of physical health and climate change to the mental health effects and impact on productivity of long commutes in poor conditions.

2.8 An obvious and hugely important impact of investment in pedestrian environments is a reduction in road casualties. Living Streets campaigns, alongside many others, for a default speed limit of 20 miles per hour in all residential areas and, where appropriate, in other streets, such as high streets that function as a ‘place’ more than as a corridor for movement. In Portsmouth, where default speed limits of 20mph were imposed on 94% of the road length in the City Council area, road casualties fell by 22%, far outstripping the national trend. [11] Particularly where this is implemented through default speed limits rather than ‘zones’ with signage and humps, it can be achieved very cost-effectively. The application of ‘naked streets’ design principles such as decluttering and widening of pavements, which encourage more cooperative and responsible road user behaviour through design rather than regulation, can also have benefits far outstripping their costs if they are well-implemented. A prominent example is Kensington High Street, which saw overall road casualties drop by nearly half after a naked streets redesign. [12] Living Streets also campaigns against inconsiderate parking behaviour, which is inconvenient, dangerous and unfair for pedestrians and people with mobility difficulties and which could also cost lives if, for example, it prevented emergency services vehicles from gaining access to an area. With the average road traffic collision carrying an estimated cost of £75,000 – and a fatal incident costed by the Department for Transport at nearly £2m [13] – the direct economic value of pragmatic, high-quality pedestrian-focused design, combined with the potential to safeguard human life and improve quality of life and perceptions of safety, is undeniable.

2.9 The contribution of active travel to the reduction of carbon emissions and air pollution, which increasingly entail considerable financial implications, is increasingly well established. The Committee on Climate Change has therefore called for a national roll out of the STC programme, which it estimates would save 2.9 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent per year.

2.10 Similarly well established are the effects of inactivity on obesity levels, and the costs of obesity to the workforce and the NHS, are well established. If current trends continue, by 2050 it is estimated that almost 60% of the UK population could be obese with the economic cost reaching £49.9 billion at today’s prices. [14] Meanwhile, the estimated costs of physical inactivity in England are £8.2 billion annually, which does not include the contribution of inactivity to obesity which in itself has been estimated at £2.5 billion annually. These figures include both the costs to the NHS and costs related to the economy, such as absence from work. [15]

2.11 Investment in active travel infrastructure can also ensure that economic growth and improvements to quality of life are targeted where they are most needed. Walking is a cheap and effective mode of physical activity that promotes independence and is evidently the method most suited to tackling health inequalities: it is almost unique in the fact that there is no financial outlay and, unlike gym-going in particular, cuts across financial divides. The cost-effectiveness of active travel as exercise further extends to the infrastructure needed, particularly in a context where funding for sports and leisure infrastructure, at least outside the Olympic area, is likely to be vastly reduced. Living Streets’ favoured ‘naked streets’ approach to improving the pedestrian environment, whereby high quality, inclusive street design is preferred to regulatory approaches such as excessive signage and traffic signals and pedestrian segregation, can often be implemented at low cost, for example when decluttering is carried out as part of a programme of scheduled maintenance.

2.12 Poor, unsafe walking environments are a typical attribute of areas of deprivation. A recent, detailed statistical study of child road casualties found that children living in Preston are more than twice as likely to be injured on the road than the national average, and five times more likely than those in Kensington & Chelsea. [16] In addition to the horrifying direct consequences of this, an intimidating, unsafe walking environment is a powerful disincentive to physical activity.

2.13 The potential of walking to be the mode of choice for a vast range and number of people is a powerful argument for targeting investment to ensure that travel over shorter distances receives as much attention as travel over longer distances. 2008 Transport for London research [17] found that over two thirds of Londoners are receptive to walking more over the next year (as compared with one in four who were receptive to cycling more). Getting the quality of the built environment right is crucial to tapping into this latent demand: making streets and places where people feel comfortable and safe and where they want to both walk and spend time. An effective public realm improvement can make people feel safer by opening up and populating spaces, which also has powerful implications for the development of social capital and the release of space for community events and informal meeting. This is demonstrable even (or especially) in highly trafficked areas and even where changes are temporary. For example, London’s Very Important Pedestrian (VIP) Day, where Oxford Street is closed to motor traffic, has been a great success, warmly welcomed both by shoppers and retailers. The New West End Company, the Business Improvement District covering Oxford Street, reported 2 million visitors to the 2009 event, with 81% of retailers surveyed reporting increased or constant sales despite the economic conditions, and 79% of shoppers surveyed indicating that they would like to see more traffic-free events. The Company quotes a Return on Investment ratio of £157:1 [18] . Conducted well, the process of identifying more permanent improvements can in itself bring people together to consider community responses to common challenges, as with Living Streets’ Community Street Audits, which equip local stakeholders to evaluate the quality of their streets and be part of the solution.

2.14 The economic circumstances and the localism agenda entail a pressing need for transport spending to respond to public priorities in a visible, place-based and democratic way. As budgets reduce and the management of expectations comes to the fore, public realm schemes clearly have a huge role to play. To put this in perspective, several genuinely transformative and impressive urban pedestrianisation or naked streets schemes which enable and encourage walking, with the associated benefits, where once driving would have been the norm, could be built for less than the realistic cost of a single mile of motorway. [19] Clear, shared objectives and a demonstrably broad base of local support can engender ownership of a public realm scheme which can itself have powerful financial implications, as in the East Riding of Yorkshire, where Living Streets’ Community Street Audit training led to an additional £100,000 being leveraged for improvements, much of it from private sources. More long-term, established research by academics and practitioners, including Transport for London, has found clear positive correlations between pedestrian improvements and increases in retail footfall, and between travel by foot and total level of spend. One recent Manchester-based longitudinal study showed pedestrian priority schemes increasing retail footfall by 20-40%, with an increase in turnover of over 17%. [20]

3. The wider transport context

3.1 Living Streets recognises that walking, whilst a hugely significant part of the everyday transport mix for people in the UK, cannot be the sole solution to the transport challenges that the UK faces. To that end we would advocate a wider framework of transport investment which also supports, promotes and expands cycling and public transport as alternatives to the car, and emphasise the potential benefits of such an approach to economic growth, particularly in low-growth or economically deprived regions.

3.2 We would draw attention to the importance of adequate pedestrian infrastructure, particularly easily navigable, safe and attractive interchanges, as a major influence on mode choices involving public transport in particular and would encourage the funding of low-cost, community-led solutions for the improvement of the pedestrian experience at public transport interchanges.

3.3 Living Streets is not anti-motorist and notes that all motorists are pedestrians at one time or another. However, in line with Eddington, we recognise the need for the mix of incentives around modal choices to reflect the undesirable environmental, social and health-related impacts of car dominance and car-dominated planning. A Parliamentary question by Norman Baker MP revealed that the real cost of motoring, including the purchase of a vehicle, declined by 14 per cent between 1997 and 2009, while public transport costs conversely increased by more than 13 per cent [21] . The economic circumstances make it all the more important that this inequity is considered as a key factor when considering which transport modes can best afford to bear the brunt of cuts and which should be protected.

4. Assessing, funding and coordinating transport schemes

4.1 In order to achieve this broader vision, and in response to the cost-effectiveness of properly delivered smarter choices programmes, Living Streets would favour greater flexibility between capital and revenue expenditure in the settlement with local transport authorities. This is very much in line with the government’s welcome moves towards more local control of revenue. Coupled with an emphasis in national guidance frameworks on the need for behavioural change and infrastructure improvements to be coordinated in order to achieve the best results, this can form part of a realistic response to the high costs and mixed outcomes of road building.

4.2 Living Streets considers that methods of assessing proposed transport schemes should be clarified and improved, particularly where elements such as health and environmental outcomes impact on future public expenditure. In particular, we would argue that the New Approach to Transport Appraisal (NATA) places too high a value on notional time savings as set against tangible and substantial health and environmental outcomes, and contains other anomalies which can lead to car-based schemes being favoured. The case for improving appraisal to take better account of which schemes make the largest net positive difference at the best value for money has been well argued elsewhere.

4.3 Urban public realm schemes are ideally suited to local delivery and do not rely on regional strategies or input, which also has positive implications for the ease of measuring the economic and wider impact of such schemes. Unlike road schemes that cross borders, joint working between neighbouring authorities could be carried out on an ad-hoc basis where necessary with relative ease. Living Streets’ Community Street Audit process, whereby local stakeholders are facilitated in evaluating their streets from their everyday perspective as a pedestrian and equipped to identify realistic but transformative improvements, shows the vast potential for democratisation of public realm schemes, whilst the potential for budgetary capture by communities for low-cost, high-impact street scene improvement measures has already been demonstrated in ward and neighbourhood budgeting exercises in local authority areas around the country and across the political spectrum. In order to support this localist approach, Living Streets advocates clear guidance on the importance of public realm in the forthcoming national planning framework and the availability of suitable professional support and development for local authority practitioners in implementing good design.

5. Pump priming: a fund for local sustainable travel

5.1 Living Streets welcomes the announcement of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, having been one of several organisations advocating the establishment of such a fund to back or match fund the delivery of low-cost, high-impact active travel projects to underpin economic growth and regeneration.

5.2 We would envisage two key criteria for a successful and effective fund: it should be substantial in scale, particularly when compared to expenditure levels on conventional capital projects, and it should welcome bids for revenue and ‘pump-priming’ funding as well as for capital funding in order to promote and support the behavioural change agenda.

5.3 Living Streets hopes that the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will invite innovative bids to transform local transport, focusing particularly on low carbon solutions, particularly related to walking and the enhancement of the public realm, which also deliver wider health, social inclusion, congestion, road safety, environmental and quality of life benefits. We advocate that the fund also supports the mainstreaming of resulting projects and approaches within local transport plans. The involvement of third sector organisations, such as the members of the Active Travel Consortium, community transport groups and social enterprises, will be an important way of ensuring that schemes are genuinely place-based, community-led and draw on existing best practice and expertise.

5.4 The fund’s central purpose should be to enable transformational change and act as a lever to encourage local authorities to be ambitious, above and beyond the contents of their Local Transport Plans. It should provide for behaviour change schemes to encourage more walking and cycling, as well as infrastructure, traffic management and other projects. This should include incentive schemes and promotional measures such as car free days. Allocation of funds would be tied to ambitious goals on improving sustainable travel as well as bidders’ demonstrable use of existing best practice.

5.5 The fund should emphasise the importance of public realm and built environment improvements which would have a beneficial impact on the number of people walking and cycling, and enable smaller schemes to promote such modal shift, as well as larger projects. While Living Streets places great value in the potential of large scale "place making" projects (such as, for example the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square in London) to open up urban areas and make them more conducive to walking, smaller behavioural change projects, particularly when linked explicitly to such public realm improvements, can deliver value for money results as discussed above. There are many examples of such improvements leading to modal shift to walking and cycling, such as the Walworth Road project in South London [22] , and the redesign of Sheffield City Centre.

Living Streets would be delighted to provide further evidence and information to the Select Committee or to discuss these issues more informally.

[1] HM Treasury and Department for Transport. 2006. The Eddington Transport Study , p.157 para 3.44. London : T he S tationery Office.

[2] British Chambers of Commerce. 2004. Getting Business Moving . Quoted in HM Treasury and Department for Transport, 2006. The Eddington Transport Study , p. 92 para 2.77.

[3] B ritish Chambers of Commerce . 2008. The Congestion Question , p . 10 . Available at , accessed 9 September 2010

[4] British Chambers of Commerce. 2008. The Congestion Question , p.22. Available at , accessed 9 September 2010

[5] British Chambers of Commerce . 2010 . Reconnecting Britain : A Business Infrastructure Survey , p . 12 . Available at , accessed 9 September 2010.

[6] ‘Using the Comprehensive Spending Review to mainstream Smarter Travel Choices’ . September 2010. L etter to Philip Hammond MP from seven leading NGOs.

[7] Wavehill Consulting. 2009. Independent evaluation of the Walk Once a Week scheme for Living Streets, Department of Health and Transport for London .

[8] Dr Adrian Davis . 2010. Value for Money: An Economic Assessment of Investment in Walking and Cycling . Bristol : Bristol City Council/NHS Bristol

[9] C ommission for Architecture and the Built Environment. 2007. Paved with Gold : the real value of street design . London : CABE.

[10] Sloman, L., Cairns , C., Newson, C., Anable, J., Pridmore, A. and Goodwin, P. 2010. The Effects of Smarter Choice Programmes in the Sustainable Travel Towns: Summary Report , p.8 . Available at , accessed 2 September 2010

[11] Department for Transport. 2010. Interim Evaluation of the Implementation of 20 mph Speed Limits in Portsmouth . Available at , accessed 21 September 2010.

[12] Swinburne, G. 2006. Report on Road Safety in Kensington High Street . London : Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Available at , accessed 9 September 2010

[13] Department for Transport. 2009. Reported Road Casualties Great Britain : 2008 Annual Report . London : DfT. Available at , accessed 7 September 2010.

[14] 15 Government Office of Science . 2007. Tackling Obesities: Future Choices . London : Foresight.

[15] 16 Chief Medical Officer (2004). At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health . London : Department of Health.

[16] 17 Road Safety Analysis. 2010. Child Casualties 2010; A study into resident risk of children on roads in Great Britain 2004-08 . Available at , accessed on 20 August 2010

[17] 18 Synovate / Transport for London . 2008. Attitudes to Walking 2008 Research Report

[18] 1 9 New West End Company, ‘Shop West End Marketing Strategy 2010-11’, , accessed on 20 June 2010

[19] Highways Agency. 2005. ‘Cost Per Mile of Constructing a Motorway’ [response to Freedom of Information request]. Available at , accessed 21 September 2010.

[20] 21 Whitehead, T., Simmonds, D., and Preston , J. 2006. ‘ The effect of urban quality improvements on economic activity ’. In Journal of Environmental Management , 80 ( 1) , July 2006, pp.1-12. Available at , accessed 2 September 2010

[21] 22 Hansard , HC (series 5) vol.505, col. 534W (5 February 2010). Available at , accessed 13 September 2010

[22] See NSL case study at


[22] September 2010