How future mobility systems can include safer walking and wheeling

7th Sept 2023

Active travel must play a larger part in the mobility ecosystem of the future – which means walking and wheeling must be safer, in order to make it more attractive. A new policy briefing from CIHT outlines the challenges to that objective

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Words by Anastasia Trofimova

Every journey, irrespective of the main form of mobility being used, starts and finishes with travellers walking or wheeling – even if that only means getting to a car parked outside the home.

Despite the ubiquitous use of walking and wheeling, though, they’re frequently neglected when planning, upgrading and maintaining infrastructure. Indeed, this oversight is now so great that many people don’t feel safe when walking or wheeling, because of poor lighting, uneven and narrow footways, and the fear of being hit by other vehicles – even smaller and slower ones, such as e-scooters and bicycles.

A recent roundtable convened by CIHT and campaign group Living Streets highlighted that the importance of walking and wheeling will require government, the profession and society at large to devote more attention and resources to it in the coming years – especially as active travel becomes increasingly important to help us meet Net Zero targets.

The roundtable sought to formulate the policy brief with four discussion points:

  • Whether the current 2030 target of 50% of all trips in England being walked/wheeled or cycled is still achievable.
  • How to improve the safety of women when walking and wheeling.
  • If current infrastructure design and standards supporting walking and wheeling are sufficiently effective.
  • The issues surrounding the maintenance of footways.

Improving walking and wheeling

A number of concrete suggestions were discussed for improving the walking and wheeling environment.

For example, central government has a role, through its agencies, to ensure walking strategies are part of new Local Transport Plans (LTP) and to encourage local authorities to use existing walking design guidance to achieve a tangible change.

At the same time, local government needs to ensure that lighting illuminates the whole street, not just the carriageway, that footways are continuous and that new street furniture elements such as EV chargers don’t cause problems for pedestrians.

CIHT can also play a role in introducing green streetscaping to foster more welcoming streets, promoting the idea that streets should be designed with more emphasis on elements such as plants, good lighting, street cleaning and maintenance, to create safe, clean streets that people want to spend time in.

New initiatives to be implemented

The roundtable also discussed initiatives that will, over time, have to be implemented, if safer walking and wheeling is to be achieved.

These include the planning and transport sectors adopting a greater walking and wheeling perspective, comprehensive walking guidelines and a coherent approach across UK nations. Street design guidance also need to be reviewed, in line with the Highway Code, which places pedestrians at the top of the road user hierarchy.

However, at the heart of any progress in walking and wheeling is a behavioural change in society towards active travel. This includes a political campaign for walking and wheeling, which would involve politicians understanding and publicly extolling the virtues of walking and wheeling.

A paradigm shift away from the primacy of the private car is now on the public agenda, even if there are still holdouts among some drivers. This shift does require more data on short trips to inform the buy-in of central and local government, and the profession, which will ensure that travellers get the message that mobility is changing, and safe walking and wheeling are at the heart of that change

>>> Read the policy briefing
Anastasia Trofimova
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