Chris Thompson (with Robert Louis Stevenson looking approvingly on!)
© John Yellowlees 2015
Founded in 1929 by Tom Foley and Viscount Cecil, the Pedestrians Association addressed people's difficulty in crossing streets that was exacerbated by the Road Traffic Act of 1930's repeal of the previous 20 mph limit.
When a couple of years later a 30 mph limit was introduced on roads in towns, an opponent Col Moore-Brabazon MP thundered that this was "absolutely reactionary legislation", and the Association began campaigning for a Highway Code.
Having himself been nearly knocked down in 1935, new transport minister Leslie Hore-Belisha won the Association's support for his introduction of zebra crossings with beacons.
During the war the Association campaigned for pedestrians to be allowed to carry torches in the blackout and pressed the Beveridge inquiry to provide for payment of compensation in road traffic accidents. 1950 was the peak year for these, with 176,000 people killed and injured. 1956 saw the 30 mph limit applied to all areas with street lighting and in 1958 the Association launched a Speed Kills campaign.
Panda crossings introduced in 1962 confused everyone, and in 1969 Pelicans offered pedestrian light-controlled crossings. Puffins and Toucans were intelligent crossings offering a quicker response if no vehicles were approaching, and Wellington NZ became the only city with a Green Woman. The Association's next campaign was Give Us Time To Cross reflecting our ageing population and slower walking speeds.
US jaywalking laws provided a harsh contrast, and the 1960s were a challenging time with the Buchanan Report on traffic in towns and the 1965 highways plan for Glasgow. The Association urged a Responsible Parking Bill and began conducting pedestrian street audits, welcoming in 1991 the first 20 mph limits and a decade later changing its name to Living Streets with Strider as its mascot.
Now it runs Walk to School Week in May, and October is International Walk to School Month, with an ongoing Walk Once A Week campaign promoted by badges and by Travel Tracker, involving the majority of Scottish local authorities with schools setting their own targets and a 12% long-term shift from car to walking and cycling already achieved. A Park and Stride campaign lobbies for walking zones, and Scottish sports minister Jamie Hepburn thinks Living Streets' app fantastic.
Issues identified by street audits include missing edge-markers, footways not upgraded in road improvements for the Commonwealth Games, new bus-shelters placed across footways, obstructive signs, noise preventing hearing of audible warnings, insufficient space for pedestrians, shabby maintenance, bins and boxes, dropped kerbs that are too steep, crossing-points that are too far apart and security bollards that can squeeze pavements.
Audits seek never to back stakeholders into a corner, and the promotion of a cafe culture is welcome especially if it can avoid clutter. Latest research demonstrates that "The Pedestrian Pound" (click here to read the report) goes further than the motorist's because the shopper on foot is more likely to return and spend more.
For a copy of the presentation, with notes Click here (Presentation: PDF format (4.3Mb))
Report and photograph by John Yellowlees.
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