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Report highlights ‘dramatic decline’ in levels of walking among children

Friday 29th April 2016

A new report by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has highlighted a ‘dramatic decline’ in the levels of walking among children, in part due to concerns about road safety.

The report, ‘Children and Travel’, has uncovered ‘striking changes’ in children’s travel with the balance of power shifting from walking to travelling by car.

Authored by social research expert Kris Beuret OBE, the report also found that children are travelling much less independently than 40 years ago.

It points to the National Travel Survey, which shows that 62% of trips by under 16s in 2010 were accompanied by an adult, compared to 41% in 1971.

The changing pattern is attributed to a number of factors including: concerns about road safety; children spending more time in front of computer screens; and longer journeys to school because parents are choosing schools out of catchment area.

The report says  more should be done to understand the views and priorities of children. It describes children as ‘largely ‘invisible as passengers in their own right’, and calls for ‘better transport design for children’, including enhanced WC facilities and family carriages on trains.

It also calls for better child travel data and evidence-based road safety programmes.

Kris Beuret OBE, commissioner with the ITC, said: “Only by arming parents, policy-makers and children with the knowledge about increasing levels of safety and public transport options, can we begin to tackle habits and attitudes at a young age that have a profound impact on behaviour in later life.

"This paper provides new insights on children’s travel needs and, importantly, examples of best practice amongst transport operators and public bodies. By following these recommendations we can encourage children out of cars, onto public transport and to walk and cycle more, in the process creating a healthier and more mobile population.”

The report also gives examples of good practice to encourage greater independent travel by children, and gives recommendations for making public transport more child-friendly in an effort to try to reverse some of these trends.

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This is not actually a news story about speed or speed limits! I notice however, out of the corner of my eye, a news item has just appeared about speed enforcement where no doubt such debates may migrate to.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)
+1

Rod,

You asked for the source of my assertion about the relationship between speed limits and driver behaviour. I thought it was common knowledge, and especially amongst the road safety fraternity and the police. Why else would we see so much time and effort expended on various enforcement operations and why is so much money collected in speeding fines and speed awareness courses, if not because speed limits do not work?

You also asked whether I 'take "any" notice of speed limits personally.' To be quite frank - no, as a pedestrian hoping for sociable speeds I do not - because I know there is no direct relationship (no causal link if you like) between motor vehicle speeds and the speed limit. What I do take notice of are roads that, by virtue of the fact that they are not engineered to induce inappropriately fast traffic, do not need speed limits. On those roads I know the drivers are paying full attention to the job in hand, driving, and are not in "well-engineered-road"-induced autopilot mode.

I agree with you completely and unreservedly that "speed is a significant determinant of the ability for participants to avoid collisions and casualties". This is why, as speed is clearly more influenced by factors other than speed limits, I think we should spend less of our valuable time promoting speed limits and more of our time promoting and installing measures that are effective at reducing traffic speeds to appropriate levels.
Charles, England

Agree (1) | Disagree (2)
-1

Guzzi, you are spot on when you say "Whatever the speed limit, without enforcement there will be widespread non-compliance", but that only applies on inappropriately engineered roads. There are certain roads in towns and villages the length and breadth of GB where motorists do use socially acceptable speeds (probably less than 12 mph in the presence of vulnerable road users), and not only without the need for enforcement but without the need for speed limits either (these places are generally covered by the academic 30 or 40 mph generic speed limits). From this we see that whatever it is that we do need, it certainly isn't more speed limits.
Charles, England

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)
-1

Charles
You say "we know speed limits make no significant difference to driver behaviour." Could you state the source of your assertion please. Perhaps you could admit whether you take "any" notice of speed limits personally.

We can swap analogies as much as you like, but the fact is that speed is a significant determinant of the ability for participants to avoid collisions and casualties.

Regarding "reading roads" isn't it about the consensus that more than "reading roads" we should be "reading the presence of people"!
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)
0

Rod, roads which give the wrong message to drivers, such as those Pat described as having been "improved", are most definitely not safe roads (how can they be if they need SCPs, traffic lights, etc). And putting up 20 mph limits will not make them any safer - we know speed limits make no significant difference to driver behaviour. To continue with your HSE analogy, that would be like putting up a "do not put our hands in here" sign up on a mechanical press, even penalising operators who ignore it, rather than requiring the press provider to design-in an interlock device which requires your hands to be well out of the way before it will work.

Safe roads are not roads which rely on laws and regulations to attempt to enforce safety, which is always going to be a losing battle when we are dealing with human drivers, they are roads which are inherently safe because they cannot (without a deliberate and wanton attempt to do harm) be used dangerously.
Charles, England

Agree (4) | Disagree (4)
0

Pat, I disagree with the use of the word "improved" when you say that some roads "were gradually improved for use by the ... car". Where those "improvements" have been made to community streets, I would contend, is where our worst problems have been created.

These are precisely the roads which are now unfit for purpose (if you agree the purpose should be 'community' use, which includes pedestrians and cyclists, not just motorists) because of unhindered and inappropriately fast (regardless of whether they are within the prevailing speed limit) traffic. The proof is that it is a dice with death to cross them and they need SCPs to help kids cross them. This is because the motorists now "own" these roads, and can use them how they wish. We teach our kids that from an early age and they carry it into adulthood. The roads are so well engineered that motorists can drive along them without concentrating or paying much attention - because they know pedestrians will kowtow to them (they are taught to as children) and not venture across "until it is clear".

On the other hand, where there is no footway and where the roads are narrow, bendy and tightly bounded, traffic travels at more acceptable speeds (regardless of the actual speed limit), motorists are paying full attention (because they have to!) and crossing is a pleasure.

I know which type of road I'd rather have in my community.
Charles, England

Agree (6) | Disagree (5)
+1

The "safe systems approach to road safety" has a simple concept and indicates a list of measures for existing roads where different types of road users are not segregated from each other. such as roads without pavements.

1. Establish appropriate speed limits:
2. Enforce existing limits:
3. Educate road users:

It is principle number 2 that is the biggest "problem". Whatever the speed limit, without enforcement there will be widespread non-compliance. A sad fact of life but low levels of enforcement lead to low levels of compliance.
Guzzi, Newport

Agree (15) | Disagree (1)
+14

Pat
In such places the "roads" are safe. It's just the way that they are used which is dangerous. If it were a car park in a factory or office block then HSE would demand appropriate protection of people. Yet the protection of public walking on such roads is routinely ignored by those responsible for them. It's why it's time for a universal 20mph limit for restricted and community roads unless adequate segregated provision exists for vulnerable road users.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (4) | Disagree (12)
-8

No Charles,
Some of our roads (whether in Wales, Bristol, Brighton or anywhere) were cart horse tracks 200 hundred years ago. They evolved and were gradually improved for use by the new fangled invention called the car. If the road THAT ALREADY EXISTS is barely wide enough for one car to pass and bounded by high walls, where are you going build a pavement? Compulsory purchase someone's garden? - Occasionally that happens (e.g. Old Shoreham Road when widening the A27) but its not the norm.
Pat, Wales

Agree (13) | Disagree (3)
+10

Doesn't it beggar belief that, some 120 years after motor vehicles were first allowed to use our roads, there are still roads running through our communities which are still so badly engineered that they will need extra measures to be provided before they are considered safe enough for our children to cross them to get to school?
Charles, England

Agree (7) | Disagree (13)
-6

Doesn't this tie in with the current story on SCPs? I can imagine there are locations where, to reach their school, children do have to cross a busy main road and the presence - or not - of an SCP would influence the parents' decision on whether the children should make that journey unnaccompanied (not necessarily in a vehicle).
Hugh Jones

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)
+2

As someone who has spent almost 10 years being involved with schools and the development of school travel plans (amongst other things), I have often seen "road safety concerns" flagged up as reasons why pupils don't walk relatively short distances to school. When we have been able to solve the specific road safety concerns mentioned, e.g. new pavements and crossings, a very large number of pupils still won't walk a reasonable distance. This experience leads me to conclude that often people say they have "concerns" over road safety but in reality this is not their primary reason for not walking. The average questionnaire is unlikely to pick up on this difference.
Pat, Wales

Agree (22) | Disagree (2)
+20

It looks then as if all these years concentrating on treatment of the symptoms (by the provision of SCPs, pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes, speed humps, speed limits, etc.) and ignoring the root cause of the problem has been wasted.

We need to go back to first principles I think, and concentrate on, as the report says, evidence-based measures. That way we maximise effectivity by minimising the influence of unrelated outside factors.
Charles, England

Agree (5) | Disagree (9)
-4