Championing walking to work

Bristol Walking Alliance is making pedestrian travel more welcoming, safe, convenient and inclusive.

Suzanne Audrey was born in Bristol, and has lived in the city for most of her life, with her early career as a community development worker taking her to economically disadvantaged areas across Bristol and Glasgow.

Now working as a Senior Research Fellow in Public Health at the University of Bristol, Suzanne is a champion of pedestrian travel.

"Walking is my preferred mode of transport. In fact, I walk whenever I can and combine it with public transport for longer journeys," says Suzanne, a passionate advocate of the benefits of travelling by foot.

"Walking is an important mode of travel that promotes health and wellbeing. Walking for short journeys can reduce our carbon footprint and help address the climate and ecological emergencies." 

As an academic, Suzanne was the chief investigator on a large research study examining the benefits of walking to work. The study found that people who walk as part of their daily commute are able to meet the government recommended levels of daily physical activity.

However, research found that walking is often not considered as an 'official' form of transport. Employers were often unsure how to support their employees to walk to work, with more awareness shown around cycling initiatives, for example.

"Although some employees enjoyed the walk to work, others described barriers in the pedestrian environment which made the walk to work feel inconvenient, dangerous or unpleasant."

Suzanne set about to change that.

In 2015, Suzanne gave a talk as part of the Bristol Walking Festival entitled “Is walking a neglected mode of transport?”. Suzanne says of her talk "I spoke about the mismatch between the public health perspective of walking as near-perfect exercise, and its neglect as a transport mode in popular images, government funding and workplace travel plans."

"When walking does get featured, it is under the label of ‘walking and cycling’, with greater attention given to the cycling element. Bristol had a Walking Strategy, but it was not clear who was taking this strategy forward". 

Fortunately, attending the talk were Alan Morris of Bristol Civic Society and Susan Carter of Bristol Ramblers, who suggested a campaign was required to raise the profile of walking in Bristol, with the aim of turning the vision of the Walking Strategy into reality.

In 2015, Bristol Walking Alliance (BWA) was formed.

Since then, BWA has grown into a citywide alliance of individuals and organisations campaigning for a pedestrian environment that is welcoming, safe, convenient and inclusive. 

Suzanne is an executive member of BWA, and continues to organise citywide events focusing on walking as a mode of transport which is good for people and for the planet. Representatives of Bristol Walking Alliance meet regularly with Bristol City Council officers and politicians to contribute to transport and city planning discussions.

BWA recently launched their ‘50 Ways to Better Walking’ booklet, which proposes measures that require policy commitments and funding from central, regional and local government, as well as support from businesses, the voluntary sector and communities.

The booklet has been well received by politicians and professionals in transport and planning, and the measures proposed will guide BWA’s campaigning over the next few years - a great example of how grassroots activity can tranform the landscape of an entire city.