Dr Suzanne Audrey is a Co-Director of our Supporting Healthy Inclusive Neighbourhood Environments Health Integration Team (SHINE HIT) and a senior research fellow in public health at the University of Bristol. She has an interest in the benefits that walking has on health and on local transport issues. This blog was first published on Bristol 24/7.
We need to stop talking about “cycling and walking”.
That does not mean we should stop talking about cycling, or that we should stop talking about walking – we just need to admit they are completely different activities.
The problem with talking about “cycling and walking”, particularly in relation to transport policy, is that the conversation invariably focuses on cycling.
This is evident in the recent Department for Transport publication Gear change: a bold vision for cycling and walking, which has four themes: Better streets for cycling and people, cycling at the heart of decision making, empowering and encouraging local authorities, enabling people to cycle and protecting them when they do, plus an appendix summarising principles for cycle infrastructure design.
The document clearly presents a vision for cycling, not walking, but at least it asserts that “cycles must be treated as vehicles, not as pedestrians” and transport planners are warned “new cycle provision which involves sharing space with pedestrians, including at crossings, will no longer be funded”.
For those who wonder what a vision for walking might look like, the Bristol Transport Strategy devotes a section to walking based on joint work between transport officers at Bristol City Council and public health researchers at the University of Bristol.
Ten actions are proposed for walking to be safe, pleasant, accessible, the first choice for local journeys and combined with public transport for longer journeys.
These ten actions for walking are significant, but who will speak up for them?
Census data suggests a “typical” person who cycles to work in Bristol is a white male, aged between 25 and 39, has a degree and works full time in a professional occupation.
Meanwhile, people who walk to work are more likely to be aged under 30, working in semi-routine or intermediate occupations, female, from minority ethnic groups, and with no obvious variation between those with no qualifications and those with a degree.
It is perhaps not surprising that high-profile advocates for “cycling and walking” have tended to be men who cycle.
The actions for walking contained within Bristol’s Transport Strategy will require advocates whose main mode of transport is walking, supported by transport officers who understand that we need to stop talking about “cycling and walking”.