Get out and walk, says the ministry

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE ARE to be encouraged to walk at least 250 miles a year as part of a government campaign to get us all to leave our cars and "reclaim the streets".

To make it easier, local authorities will be told to widen pavements and remove "street furniture" which gets in way of pedestrians.

Ministers, including John Prescott, the Transport secretary, will pledge to walk more often to set a national example to couch potato citizens.

The Government will set targets to increase the journeys people walk by a third, and to boost the average distance walked from 200 to 250 miles per person by 2008.

The policy, which was set in train by the Conservatives and has taken three years to process, will mean that all local councils will have to monitor how far people are walking in order to gain government cash. It will also mean that towns should post special walkers' maps, with suggested routes for getting about, at bus stops and on other public places.

Ministers believe that walkers are being kept waiting too long at signal- controlled crossings. They want the little green man of the signal to appear earlier so that walkers do not have to keep stopping and starting on their journeys to work, school or the shops.

"Pedestrians are certainly being asked to wait for an inconveniently long time at some signal-controlled crossings," the report will say. "This encourages people to risk crossing the road during the traffic phase, leaving the pedestrian signal to change to green and halt traffic flow when there are no pedestrians waiting to cross."

The Government will also take steps to reclaim urban streets from cars. Local authorities will be asked to "seek to re-allocate road space to pedestrians" by building more pavements, banning pavement parking and introducing traffic-calming measures and no-car zones.

"To reflect new priorities, road space should be re-allocated from private motor transport to pedestrians," the report will say.

It will ask local councils to build wider pavements and to mend broken pavements which lead to elderly people tripping and falling down.

The strategy was framed after consultation with walkers' groups, including the Pedestrians Association, and the Association of Chief Police Officers which expressed concern that many walkers' routes were not properly lit.

A new government-backed national forum on walking, to disseminate information about how to best manage without cars and about the health benefits of walking, will also be set up next month. It will be designed to counter the powerful car and train lobbies and to voice walkers' concerns. The forum will send "counters" on to the street to see how many people are walking and monitor whether the Government's new targets are being met.