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The organisation Living Streets, which campaigns on behalf of pedestrians, has commissioned an updated edition of The Pedestrian Pound, a study into the relationship between the pedestrian-friendliness and attractiveness of high streets and the economic success of their businesses.

he report can be downloaded from

Below are a couple of extracts from a briefing document prepared for MPs and local councillors.

pedestrian pound coverKey points

  • A review of academic evidence in the report shows that shoppers on foot can spend up to six times more than those who arrive by car.
  • Businesses, residents, developers and visitors all benefit from investment in the public realm and walkability.
  • Data on streets where the pedestrian experience has been improved shows footfall increasing 20-35 per cent. This bucks a 22 per cent decline in footfall across the UK between 2007-2017.
  • When streets are regenerated to boost walking, there is a corresponding impact on turnover, property values and rental yields. For well-designed projects, sales can increase by 30 per cent or more when footfall is boosted.

Six Take Away Points

  1. Investments in the public realm and walkability make economic sense. The evidence we have – from the UK and internationally – demonstrates increased footfall and trading.
  2. High street decline is a long-standing trend with many causes and variables. It is not, however, inevitable. Businesses, high streets and urban centres are responding to the changing ways we shop and live with a range of actions to encourage footfall and increase sales. The most successful of these recognise the economics of place and the need to improve the pedestrian experience and accessibility.
  3. Consumers, and increasingly businesses, are willing to pay for improvements to the public realm that enhance the walking environment and increase accessibility. Public realm interventions should be carefully designed to ensure that local people – as well as the high street – benefit from them.
  4. Business owners and organisations still over-value the importance of parking and car access to their footfall and sales revenue. Business organisations need to be aware of the evidence in this area to promote the economic benefits of walkability, public spaces and provision for cycling and active transport users to members.
  5. Improvements to the public realm and pedestrian environment increase residential and commercial property values. High rents restrict local access to home ownership and reduce retail diversity, as smaller businesses are priced out of the market. Regeneration should be designed to ensure that high street and residential diversity is promoted.
  6. Evaluation needs to be built into all project design. Information deficits act as a barrier to investment and sharing what works to create vibrant and economically successful high streets and town centres.

Below is an extract from the introductory section of the report.

Five years on, The Pedestrian Pound, prepared by independent experts Just Economics, has become a much quoted reference point helping individuals and organisations make the economic case for investing in better streets. Throughout that time new strong evidence has emerged of the benefits of attractive places where people on foot feel welcome. Highlighting this evidence is vital, as many high streets continue to struggle with economic change and rising challenges, such as air pollution and internet shopping. We are therefore delighted that support from Transport Scotland has facilitated a comprehensive and timely update of the original publication.

Building on the original report the new edition expands the evidence and includes 20 new and updated case studies showing what works, citing examples of best practice from across the UK.

With the UK’s high streets and town centres struggling to adapt to changing retail patterns and the digital economy, a new approach is vital. Access to shops and banks is no longer in itself sufficient to sustain local economies. The way we shop has changed for good, which poses both challenges and opportunities. Living Streets believes that it’s time for town centres to be rediscovered as places where people get together, socialise and feel part of a real community. High streets where people walk together, meet together, shop together and have coffee together are likely to be safer, more attractive and more economically vibrant.

The Pedestrian Pound provides both academic research and case studies showing those safe and pleasant places, where people walk to and stay longer, are economically vibrant. This carefully collated evidence contrasts with outdated prejudices about parking that miss the wider picture. Critically, the many sources in The Pedestrian Pound remind us that the quality of the public realm can deliver real benefits to businesses and consumers. Since 1929, Living Streets has campaigned for better streets for pedestrians. We believe walking can put high streets at the heart of healthy and vibrant communities.

Finally, an excerpt from the main body of the report, about misconceptions concerning the proportion of customers who arrive by car - it has been found to be much lower than businesses estimate.

There is a clear body of evidence that retailers, businesses and agencies overestimate the importance of the car for customer travel. In 2006 Sustrans interviewed 840 shoppers and 126 retailers on two neighbourhood shopping streets in Bristol to find out how customers travelled, and were perceived to travel. This replicated a survey in the city of Graz, in Austria, which found that retailers overestimated the importance of the car for customer travel (retailers assumed 58% of their customers arrived by car, when in fact 44% walked, 8% cycled and 16% arrived by bus). In Bristol, retailers overestimated the importance of the car by almost 100%. They assumed that 41% of their customers arrived by car; only 22% had done so (Sustrans, 2006). Similarly, in 2015 a survey of local businesses in Waltham Forest found that business believed 63% of their customers arrived by car and only 49% walked. A survey of visitors to the street revealed that only 20% had arrived by car and 64% had walked.

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Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #4300 15 Dec 2018 17:49
The last, pre-cycle lane, independent town centre review undertaken of arrival mode for PG (and pretty much matched across all Enfield's town centres) revealed a near dead equal split: car, feet and public transport (mostly bus with a bit of train). There was no detail of relative spend between the different modes, by memory, but it said to me, given the near capacity of car parking space we have heard an awful lot about, that the really big footfall opportunity was in focusing on local feet and bus arrivals; and then looking at usage and retention aspects. Are the many thousands of households who live within walking distance of PG centre being provided with what they would willingly open their purses and wallets for - or do they do so elsewhere? I would suggest local traders should be able to drown me in answers to that question.
Adrian Day's Avatar
Adrian Day posted a reply #4315 20 Dec 2018 09:47
Some interesting thoughts, that chime with much of what we've been saying:
David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #4316 20 Dec 2018 09:55
Also fits very well with the PDR/NIMBY thread. The need to tackle our over-supply of high street retail shops by recycling and re-purposing them and the planning environment required to facilitate this.
Neil Littman's Avatar
Neil Littman posted a reply #4318 20 Dec 2018 14:01
I live much nearer Palmers Green than Enfield yet almost never shop in Palmers Green. no market, no Waitrose, Robert Dyas, Pearsons department store, Body Shop, M&S etc.

Fine if you live within walking distance but it is all relative. I can get the bus or drive to Enfield Town but too far to walk and the catchment area is what counts.

I know people in Herts who shop in Enfield. It has to be worth travelling the distance for the destination shops. I simply don't believe those figures of six times spend. Would like to know the specifics for Enfield and for Palmers Green for comparison.