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Engineers back health body's recommendation to prioritise pedestrians in road design

Pedestrian walking green man

New recommendations released by the health advisory body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), have recommended that new roads should give the highest priority to pedestrians and cyclists to promote more active lifestyles.  

In draft recommendations, NICE has said that local authorities should consider the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport above motorists when developing and rebuilding roads.  

“When developing and maintaining travel routes, pedestrians, cyclists and users of other modes of transport including public transport that involve physical activity should be given the highest priority over motorised transport (cars, motorbikes and mopeds, for example),” the recommendation reads.  

Suggestions for enacting these changes could come as “reallocating road space to support walking and cycling, restricting motor vehicle access, introducing road-user charging and traffic-calming schemes,” the NICE suggests.  

This recommendation come as part of a wider report into physical activity and encouraging greater activity in the general population.  

Other recommendations included advice to employers for starting “physical activity programmes” in the workplace.  

Civic Engineers founding director Stephen O’Malley said the guidelines are “music to the ears of those working towards healthy cities”. 

“The draft guidelines issued by NICE which focus on getting people to be more physically active and ensuring our transport systems and the wider built environment are designed to support this is music to our ears,” he said.  

“Active travel has always been a guiding principle of our approach and it is heartening to hear that this is supported and now promoted by agencies such as NICE. Our work in Altrincham, Wolverhampton, Catford and the ambitious Glasgow ‘Avenues’ project demonstrates that by focusing on promoting active travel and redesigning our streets to give pedestrians, cyclists and public transport priority we can move towards creating healthier cities and ultimately improving people’s health and wellbeing.” 

Arup associate director for transport consulting Susan Claris agreed that the recommendations were a step in the right direction.  

“I welcome these guidelines and the importance they place on active travel. I think it is vital that local authorities and healthcare commissioners have senior level physical activity champions - as long as these champions have the right amount of power and influence,” she said.  

“It is great to see prominence being given to the fact that local authorities should develop and maintain connected travel routes that prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and people who use public transport.”

She added: “I am glad that the Guidance recognises that it is not all about new infrastructure – maintenance and repair budgets are also an important way of delivering healthier streets and people.” 

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said that the pedestrian-focused recommendations are “all well and good” but that construction of entirely new roads was rare outside of housing developments.  

“New road building is rare and where it does take place it is usually associated with housing estates,” he said.  

“It’s all very well making provision for walking and cycling in these developments but if the shops, schools and doctors’ surgeries that people need to get to are still miles away then for many the car will remain the most practical method of travel.” 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • A massive amount could be done by surveying the existing pedestrian and cycle travel networks in our towns and villages. In most cases huge improvements are possible without huge investment. The will must be there to keep making incremental improvements, and not to stop when when some meagre funding source expires. There are plenty of roads without footways, or with gaps in the footways that can remedied at low cost. There are plenty of quiet streets that can be connected together sensibly to make safe cycle routes.

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