Friday, June 24, 2011

The Right to Walk

Over the next few days I will be publishing a few posts on the subject of walking and public transport issues with contributions from at least 3 others. When I say walking I mean it as people who use the pavements, including those who use wheelchairs and also…… those like me who sometimes drive cars. Once you have parked your car there will be a walk, however short, to where you are going.

The thing is that most of our infrastructure these days is designed for private motorised transport and the name of the game is to keep the traffic moving. But people on foot, or in wheelchairs, are traffic too and they are forgotten and marginalized in the process. Forced into dingy and unpleasant subways, made to clamber over footbridges or diverted for miles just to cross the road.

However, as more and more motorists cut back on car journeys for financial reasons there are likely to be more pedestrians encountering these difficulties and perhaps a wider and more appreciative audience to such issues.

Before going on to blog about some real local examples, we shall start with an article from Living Streets.

Too many people are unable to get to local shops and services such as libraries, schools, shops selling fresh food, post offices, GPs, banks and community pubs on foot. New YouGov research commissioned by Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrians’ Association) reveals that more than a quarter (28%) of GB adults feel isolated, or have a friend or loved one who feels isolated, because of a lack of access to essential shops and services within walking distance.

Walking – and being able to walk for everyday journeys – is hugely important. Yet nearly half (47%) of those aged 55+ in Britain cannot walk to their nearest GP’s surgery, while 58% cannot walk to their nearest bank. This trend is leading to isolation, lack of physical exercise and neighbourhood decline.

Where former local services have changed use, this has often caused other problems. Living Streets research suggests that over half of UK adults have seen an increase in fast food outlets on their nearest high street since moving to the area. Nearly a third reported an increase in betting shops. Yet people are not happy with loopholes such as the fact that a bank can change to a betting shop without planning permission – 81% think that communities should have a say when the use of a building is changed. If the government wants to give communities the power to shape their neighbourhoods, these concerns must be addressed. Living Streets is calling on the Government to give councils and communities a voice when essential shops and services are under threat from unwanted changes of use, and for national planning policy to ensure that new housing is located within reasonable walking distance of essential shops and services. More.

1 comment:

  1. I feel pretty fortunate to live where I do. The location is fabulous! I do think the High Street is struggling though and think there's a fair point in the final paragraph about the loopholes.