Walking rates go downhill

24th Jan 2018

Levels of walking in England have fallen dramatically over the past decade with the latest Government statistics showing a 19% decrease in trips on foot since 2005.

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The Department for Transport released its ‘Walking & Cycling Statistics’ report covering 2016 last week. It showed that in 2015-16, a third of adults did not manage to walk for at least 10 minutes once a week. In addition the average distance walked per week decreased by 8% between 2005 and 2015.
 
“The ongoing decline in the number of people walking, revealed in these figures, is disappointing,” said campaign group the Ramblers’ chief executive Vanessa Griffiths.
 
“Encouraging walking helps to boost local economies and create happier, more cohesive communities.” But, she added: “In many ways, walking remains the poor relation compared to cycling when it comes to Government investment in active travel.”
 
Living Streets' head of policy Tompion Platt commented: “We need to plan our towns and cities around the needs of people, not vehicles.” He called for sustained investment from Government in behaviour change initiatives and the creation of safe walking routes to reverse the decline in journeys by foot.
 
“20MPH limits, safer crossings and tackling pavement parking are all ways to make our streets feel safer and more inviting places to walk,” he added.
 
Despite falling numbers of trips, walking was the second most common transport mode choice in 2016, with 25% of trips being on foot. Meanwhile just 2% of trips were cycled – a figure that has remained largely unchanged for a decade.
 
In 2016, the average person made 15 cycling trips, a fall of 16% compared to 10 years before. However the average annual distance cycled was 85km, a rise of 26%.
 
The DfT’s report also highlights that three fifths of adults feel it is too dangerous to cycle on the roads. Cycle charity Sustrans’ senior policy and partnerships advisor Tim Burns said: “We know from our research that the public wants investment in dedicated space for cycling, separated from road vehicles. Sharing the space with large metal boxes is a daunting prospect for many people.”

The organisation’s ‘Bike Life’ report, which covered seven of the UK’s major cities, found last year that 78% of people want more protected bike routes on roads, even if this means less space for other modes.

Cycling UK’s policy director Roger Geffen also commented: “Air pollution, congestion and physical inactivity all impose increasing costs on society. The country needs more people cycling and walking.
 
“Significant investment is necessary if the Government is to achieve its aspiration for cycling and walking to become the natural choice for shorter journeys.”
 
Transportation Professional’s February issue will feature a technical paper looking at the decrease in walking and how the mode of travel has fared over the last three decades. 
 
Photo: Alastair Lloyd
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