Demonstrating how rights of way can contribute to sustainable travel is key to tapping into LTP funds, as well as making the case for future investment. The following extracts from ROWIPs demostrate how this can be addressed.
See how Leicestershire addressed this issue
Cheshire County Council — Countryside Access and Sustainable Travel
It is only comparatively recently that the contribution of the Public Rights of Way network to non-motorised travel has been recognised. Public Rights of Way have always provided opportunities for people to access services in both rural and urban areas by foot and bicycle; however they have more usually been regarded as a leisure or recreational resource. The unsealed surfaces of Public Rights of Way (usually soft/unsealed) often discourages their use for 'purposeful journeys', as do issues of personal safety and the lack of lighting.
To address this, we need to engender a culture of using the Public Rights of Way network for 'function' rather than 'leisure' alone. Combined with the careful targeting of surface improvements and other maintenance measures, this should pay dividends in not only reducing congestion and pollution, but improving people's health through 'active' travel choices.
The Cheshire context
Cheshire is a county with a higher than average car ownership. Most of our residents live in small to medium sized towns or villages and car reliance is high. Given this, there are obvious difficulties in encouraging people to walk and cycle.
Car ownership continues to increase; it was higher in 2004 than at the time of the 2001 census.
Cheshire Community Survey 2004
Cheshire's residents need to be encouraged to choose sustainable forms of travel. The LTP's daughter documents, the Walking and Cycling Strategies, identify objectives for the County Council in achieving this; one of the greatest challenges identified here lies in changing people's travel habits and attitudes.
Through initiatives such as 'Safe Routes to School', children can be taught good habits early on and significant in-roads can be made into reducing the traffic congestion of the 'school run'. Likewise the promotion of workplace Travel Plans can encourage responsible travel choices from employers and employees alike, delivering both health and environmental benefits.
In parallel with such initiatives, our highway network needs to be improved to become an environment in which people feel safe and comfortable to walk and cycle. Too often, speed, lack of crossings and sheer traffic volume deter people from making active travel choices, as well as reducing their quality of life in general. This will be addressed by the new Local Transport Plan.
What people said they wanted
We have used various sources of information to find out how people in Cheshire currently use the countryside access network for sustainable travel, and what improvements could be made to make this easier and encourage others. We looked at: -
- Cheshire Community Survey 2004 (household interviews)
- Vale Royal Greenways Household Survey 2003 (telephone surveys)
- North and Mid Cheshire Ramblers Association Survey (postal)
- Sustainable Travel research (John Trevelyan and ADAS - literature review)
- Sustainable Travel research (MVA - doorstep interviews and focus groups)
- Many regular non-motorised purposeful journeys are made on the network, especially to shops, workplaces and schools. There are differences between rural and semi-urban areas.
- Most people's journeys along public rights of way are for leisure purposes rather than for purposeful journeys, such as walks to work or the shops.
- People expressed a desire to use the network more often for purposeful journeys. Routes need a good surface, be well connected to destinations and lit where appropriate.
- Few people use sustainable travel to get to the start of a recreational trip, either because public transport is too poorly connected or because the distances are too far.
- The distance people are willing to travel on foot or by bicycle is an important consideration. Thirty minutes walking is probably as far as people would be willing to travel before choosing an alternative.
- The relatively short distances travelled by people in semi-urban areas using a car/van demonstrates an opportunity to offer them the alternative of using the network.
- There is a need to raise awareness of rights of way and overcome the general apathy towards their use for purposeful trips.
What does it mean?
We drew the following conclusions from the information people gave us: -
- People tend to regard the countryside access network as a recreational resource and would prefer to see it developed as such, rather than for functional journeys. Promotion and education will therefore be critical if we are to maximise the potential use of the network for purposeful journeys.
- Even so, it appears that there are a substantial number of purposeful non-motorised trips made each week to access shops, schools, work etc particularly in semi-urban areas. The extent of the contribution of the PROW network to these journeys remains unclear.
- It is clear that if physical changes are made to improve a right of way then this needs to be well communicated if they are to have a significant impact.
- There are particular difficulties in rural areas for encouraging greater use of the PROW network for purposeful journeys. Lack of pavements or a suitable alternative is one of them. The greater distances required to access services also deters people from using the PROW network.
- There is great scope for developing better links between public transport and the countryside access network, not only for facilitating purposeful journeys (especially in rural areas) but for reducing the number of trips to the start of recreational visits made by private car.
- The short length of a significant proportion of car journeys made by rural and urban residents for purposeful trips offers considerable scope for developing a PROW alternative.
- Information provision is key to encouraging people to choose the PROW network for short purposeful journeys. In particular, publicising individual routes in local areas for specific origins and destinations could have a significant impact.
- Infrastructure improvements must be made to address what people have said about safety, surfacing, and connectivity.
Northumberland County Council — informal draft ROWIP extract
2.3 The Government's Transport White Paper 'A New Deal for Transport; Better Deal for Everyone' set the policy framework which emphasised integrated transport planning to reduce car dependency and promote sustainable alternatives, linking transport, health and the environment. This has been a guiding principle for the development of Local Transport Plans and Planning Policy (Planning Policy Guidance 13) and as such is reflected in Northumberland's own Local Transport Plan (LTP) objective to:
"Contribute to the creation of safe, convenient and attractive places for people to work and live by improving access for all by sustainable means and managing traffic to reduce its impact on the environment"
2.4 The importance of ensuring that green space and local services are well connected to safe walking and cycling routes, as part of the development of sustainable communities, is highlighted in the Northumberland Local Transport Plan's cycling and walking strategies. The Cycling Strategy aims to maximise the role of cycling as a transport mode for utility, leisure and tourist journeys, as a means of reducing congestion and pollution and increasing health benefits. Northumberland's Walking Strategy emphasises the 'importance of a safe environment for journeys on foot and its potential to improve the health of the population'. The rights of way network is a key mechanism for helping to deliver these aspirations. In particular, it could make an important contribution to the following policy initiatives:
- Safe Route to Schools
- Development of Green Travel Plans for large employers
- Supporting Sustainable Communities by improving sustainable access to local services and green space