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Living Streets celebrates 90 years of putting walking first

Logo: Living Streets

When it all began

Living Streets first came into being in 1929, when Tom Foley set up what was then known as the Pedestrians Association.

In the early days, the charity was behind the UK’s  first zebra crossings and speed limits  (Living Streets)
In the early days, the charity was behind the UK’s first zebra crossings and speed limits (Living Streets)

In the early days, they were behind the UK’s first zebra crossings and speed limits. 90 years on and the charity continues the work Tom

Foley pioneered and his ambitious vision. Now their campaigns and projects up and down the UK, including the world’s biggest Walk to
School campaign, help enable and encourage people of all ages to walk more.

Tom Foley loved walking and never learnt to drive. Throughout his life, he campaigned tirelessly to improve life for pedestrians as he

became more and more concerned about the dangers posed to people by increasing motorised transport.

Tom’s concerns around road safety were confounded by the death of a friend in a road traffic incident. In 1929, he persuaded Viscount Cecil to join him in starting the Pedestrians Association with the aim of representing the rights of people walking and promoting road safety.

Key milestones

One of Tom’s greatest achievements was campaigning for the government to introduce safe and legal pedestrian crossings. To mark these crossings, he came up with the idea of the ‘Belisha Beacon’ which was named after the then Minister of Transport Leslie Hore-Belisha. What we know today as the zebra crossing was introduced in 1951.

Tom Foley set up Living Streets back in 1929,  under its original name of the Pedestrians  Association (Living Streets)
Tom Foley set up Living Streets back in 1929, under its original name of the Pedestrians Association (Living Streets)

Tom also lobbied for speed limits in urban and residential areas and was happy to take part in roadside demonstrations, waving placards at noted danger spots. He also led the Pedestrians Association in campaigning for the introduction of a driving test and new offense for drink driving. In 1963 he was awarded an OBE for services to road safety. And despite his retirement, he continued to campaign on various issues until his sudden death after a short illness in 1979.

Since then, the charity’s milestones have continued. Walk to School Week was launched in 1997 and encourages thousands of families across the UK to walk to school each May, improving air quality around our school gates, reducing congestion and helping in the fight against childhood inactivity.

Living Streets is behind the world’s  biggest Walk to School campaigns  (Living Streets)
Living Streets is behind the world’s biggest Walk to School campaigns (Living Streets)

The Pedestrians Association was renamed ‘Living Streets’ in 2001 and went on to take up bases across the UK, stretching from their London head office to establish Living Streets Scotland in 2008 and Living Streets Cymru in 2015 – with staff based in towns and cities in between.

Living Streets in 2019

The challenges might be different in 2019 to what they were in 1929,but the charity’s work remains as important as ever.

In more recent years, their campaigning has seen 20mph speed limits on residential areas becoming more widespread; more schools closing their local streets to cars at drop off and pick up times; and the Scottish Government published a bill to ban pavement parking nationwide.

In England, Living Streets was central to the new requirement for the government to regularly review cycling and walking investment, with new target of 55% primary school children walking to school by 2025. And the first Wales Active Travel Act saw a requirement for local authorities to improve facilities for walking and cycling.

Living Streets’ work helps enable and encourage  people of all ages to walk more (Living Streets)
Living Streets’ work helps enable and encourage people of all ages to walk more (Living Streets)

Living Streets shows no signs of slowing down as it approaches its centenary. During National Walking Month in May this year, Living Streets will launch its #nine90 campaign, advocating for streets to be designed with nine-year-olds and 90-year-olds in mind – with clear pavements, slower speeds and effective crossings - because when they are, they become accessible to everyone.Living Streets wants to create a nation where walking is the natural choice for everyday, local journeys; free from congested roads and

pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illnesses and social isolation.

There are many ways to get involved to help Living Streets achieve its ambitious aims. If you’d like to support one of their projects,

become a Living Streets member or campaign for better streets in your area, visit livingstreets.org.uk/get-involved 

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