Latest Tory transport policy is ... walking

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WALKING will be officially rehabilitated this week when a new transport strategy for cities proclaims that it should no longer be regarded as "an inferior form of movement".

A vision of cities for pedestrians, based on long-distance, traffic-free "greenways", will be launched by John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, on Tuesday. He will demonstrate his commitment to it by going for a medium-length walk.

A study for the Department of the Environment, produced by Land Use Consultants and backed by such organisations as the Countryside Commission and the London Walking Forum, proposes 10 potential greenways radiating from the centre of London.

These signposted "City Walks", one of which will be followed by Mr Gummer on Tuesday, would run along environmental corridors - parks, quiet side- streets, canal towpaths. They would run past landmarks, such as well-known buildings or street markets.

However, they would also link up shops, businesses, schools and public transport in what would be an alternative trans-London network for walkers, connecting Hampstead Heath in the north to Crystal Palace in the south and Hammersmith in the west to Limehouse and Victoria Park in the east.

Many cities are now developing walking policies based on similar pedestrian "through-routes". Mr Gummer's support represents another move away from the "great car economy" backed by Margaret Thatcher. Growing public opposition to pollution and traffic congestion has already forced the Government to cut the road-building programme. Last week, ministers announced a new strategy to encourage cycling.

The longest of the routes investigated in the Land Use Consultants study, the 10-mile walk from Crystal Palace to the Strand, would cost pounds 500,000 to complete: the money would go on improving traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, lowering kerbs for wheelchair users, putting up signs and installing seats or planting trees.

However, the study says the routes would cut road accidents and represent "extremely good value for money".The scope for more walkways is "substantial", it adds.

Adrian Wikeley of Land Use Consultants said the study showed that walking increased people's pleasure in cities.

"Historically, until the omnibus appeared, most people used to walk to work from places like Hampstead or Camberwell. The one thing that is always forgotten in transportation studies of cities is the pedestrian. Little is thought about how they can get from one place to another," Mr Wikeley said.