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Local authority should improve the quality of footpaths

Local authorities should improve the quality of footpaths to encourage people to be more active, public health body says.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) yesterday published its updated guidance on physical activity and the environment.

The new guidance aims to help people be more active through improvements to the built environment and public transport, as well as better access to the countryside.

Among its recommendations, NICE said that councils should maintain paths and cycle routes to a ‘high standard’ so that they are convenient, safe and attractive to use.

‘Handing back some of the roads to pedestrians and cyclists will help people to become more active,’ said Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE.

‘Simple things such as ensuring street lights along footpaths are working and hedges are kept trimmed makes walking a more attractive option which will lead to people living healthier lives.’

The public health body also stressed the importance of helping those with limited mobility negotiate footpaths easily.

‘People with limited mobility need extra help from their surroundings such as adapted crossings, public transport that can be used with a wheelchair and step-free access,’ said Professor Baker.

‘With a little thought, these measures can be designed into our public spaces to help everyone be more active.’

According to a 2016 survey by the walking charity Ramblers, 56% of paths were well-kept and signposted, but 35% needed improvement to make them more accessible and user-friendly.