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Walking and Cycling in Ashtead

How Do We Get More People Walking and Cycling In Town?

I just watched this excellent talk by Jeff Speck; how to get city dwellers walking and cycling instead of using cars. There are some key observations in there, but three I’d pluck out of the hat are:

  1. Tree-lined streets and sharp street corners lead to slower-driving cars.
  2. Ensure that amenities, shops, transport, housing are within a few hundred metres of each other.
  3. Narrower streets with parked cars produce much slower and safer traffic.


Although Jeff was analysing American cities, the parallels with our UK and European urban centres are clear to see. There is a lot we could re-learn about how our Surrey towns and villages have “worked” in the past, and where we might have gone wrong with more recent town planning and design. What Jeff is saying is our road layouts, systems and improvements ironically drive further reliance on the car, and more of the traffic we seek to avoid.

How Do We Encourage More Residents To Cycle?

Interestingly, the “wall of steel” produced by parked cars not only helps pedestrians feel safer from traffic while walking. Jeff also found that cycle lanes, if they are separated from the main traffic flow by an “on-street” column of parked cars, attract more cyclists because the riders feel safer.

One of his conclusions is that planners who put the full infrastructure in place for safe, lane-separated cycling, will attract cyclists in sufficient numbers. This makes sense; here in Surrey, the recent installation of a cycle pathway between the Leatherhead and Ashtead town centres is, I believe, only the first step to creating a joined-up cycling solution for local residents. At present, you can’t go around Ashtead by cycle lane, and it stops before you even get to the high street. I am sure, like many parents, I feel insecure about my children cycling to/from/around Ashtead because of this. This is surely one of the reasons why the cycle lane seems so woefully underused to date.

Milton Keynes is a great example of a garden city whose cycle- and walk-ways are separated from the road traffic and interconnect throughout, which leads to much greater use by its population.

To watch Jeff’s TED talk, entitled “4 Ways To Make A City More Walkable”, please click on the play symbol below:

For those of you not already familiar with the wonderful resource that is TED.com, I highly recommend you sign up. You can enjoy fascinating (short!) talks by “cutting edge” thinkers, who speak on stage to a live audience about all manner of topics, from science to human relationships to the environment. It’s great for educating your kids too, because there are always slides and videos.

Happy walking and cycling!


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