Walking and cycling strategies and design guidance: what’s the point?

Event report by Robert Huxford, Director of Urban Design Group

Presentations available to download

Making London the World’s most Walkable City. Naomi Baster, TfL

Walking and Cycling Implementation Plans. What are they all about? Phil Jones

If every Londoner walked 20 minutes every day, one in six early deaths could be prevented, said Transport for London’s Naomi Baster speaking at Tuesday night’s Urban Design Group and London Living Streets event. Other benefits included savings in energy, reductions in air pollution and congestion, and of course, walking costs nothing.

So why aren’t more people walking? Travel statistics show that the number of daily cycle trips being taken in London has more than doubled over the past 15 years, yet the increase in walking trips has barely matched the increase in London’s population.   Research provides the following reasons:

  • Not enough time – 24%
  • Too much traffic – 21%
  • Concern about personal security – 20%
  • Traffic travelling too fast – 14%
  • Alternatives that work better – 18%

TfL has been developing a wide series of measures, including severance, crowding of footways, as a way of informing the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the Walking Action Plan. Practical measures also include new infrastructure to improve links, making signal-controlled crossings more convenient for pedestrians, and reducing speed limits.

Brenda Peuch, access consultant, and driving force behind the growth of residential Parklets in the UK, spoke on behalf of Feryal Clark, Deputy Major of Hackney.  Filters, play streets, school streets, kerb-side measures, including bicycle hangers and kerbside Parklets, are some of the measures that have been introduced by the council. More Hackney residents travel to work by cycle than by driving, making Hackney unique in London (and possibly the UK).

Brenda spoke of the human and political challenges faced when introducing better conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and children.  There can be opposition from motorists to parking controls, or road access restrictions. Residents also sometimes fear displaced traffic.

However, councillors have been able to say that the measures that improve the conditions for pedestrians and cyclists are all in the strategy which the electorate voted for.  With that popular mandate the council have been in able to win people over and make progress.

This provided one answer to the rhetorical question posed by Phil Jones “We have had strategy after strategy and policy after policy… but what has it led to?” Not all councils need a strategy or a plan to get on and do things, but there are occasions when it will help, and add rigor and reason to what they do.

Phil gave a step-by-step guide as to how a council could produce a walking and cycling strategy and why it should want to. If there is a plan, and especially one with popular support, it will identify a program of cycling and walking infrastructure improvements in the short medium and long term; it will embed cycling and walking in local planning and transport policies and strategies; and make the case for future funding for walking and cycling infrastructure.

The areas for which the plans have been produced range from cities down to local areas.  It is up to the local authority to decide what would be most useful and most practical.

The study “Location of Development” conducted for the RTPI in 2016 by Bilfinger GVA, found that over 87% of 165,000 new housing units examined were beyond walking distance of a railway station, metro or tram stop.