NMT and a new transport user hierarchy

Not exactly new ….

In a previous post (here) I wrote:

Non-motorised transport (NMT) is as much a part of road transport systems in countries such as the UK and Holland as it is  in countries such as Uganda and Ghana. The points being made here then are that

  • NMT must surely deserve a bigger share of attention and funding in developed countries than it gets at the moment

  • NMT should be included in any formal classification of road transport, and on a par with motorised transport at the highest level

It turns out that this is not exactly a new idea, and seems to be one which is widely accepted (except perhaps by people developing road programmes). Indeed many recent documents put NMT at the top of a road transport hierarchy, with private cars right at the bottom – with the implication that people should not spend money on providing road space for private cars. For example:

South Africa 2015

Referring to South Africa’s NMT facility guidelines document, (ref.2255) says that the document

“supports the application of the transport user hierarchy  when planning and designing settlements – i.e. consider the needs of the most vulnerable users first: pedestrians, then cyclists, then public transport users, specialist vehicles like ambulances and, finally, ordinary motor vehicles”.

UK 2015

The above quotation from the South Africa document actually looks like the road user hierarchy included in Watford Borough Council’s “Creating a vision for transport policy” appendix B (ref. 2260), which has the following figure:

user hierarchy 1

The document says that:

“The preferred Transport User Hierarchy of the (UK) Department for Transport, is that streets should be designed with the needs of the most vulnerable users being considered first, and the needs of the least vulnerable last”

(Note: the figure shows the original source of the graphic is the Manual for streets, which was published by the UK Department for Transport in 2007).

New Zealand 2013

The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine Policy Statement on transport (ref. 2259) says

“The NZCPHM supports transport user hierarchy approaches for the development and funding of better transport and urban systems. Transport users’ hierarchies prioritise active transport first, then public transport, followed by business and freight, and finally the use of private vehicles for personal transport”

The document includes the following figure on transport user hierarchy:

user hierarchy 2

Ireland 2012
In the document “Greater Dublin Area, draft transport strategy 2011 – 2030 / 2030 vision, Ireland’s National Transport Authority includes the following figure:

user hierarchy 3


Perhaps with this new transport user hierarchy a good first step would be to stop spending money on new motorways and other “primary” roads. What actually happens? a UK government document (ref. 2266) said that (excerpt):

In June 2013, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced in Investing in Britain’s Future that we would be:

  • Investing £15.1 billion in our strategic roads by 2021 to counter the effects of past underinvestment.
  • Adding a further 221 lane miles of extra capacity to our busiest motorways.


2255 – South Africa, Marianne        Vanderschuren and others, “Non-Motorised Transport Facility Guidelines: What is New and Why?” Proceedings of the 34th Southern African Transport Conference (SATC 2015), ISBN Number: 978-1-920017-63-7

2258 – Ireland, “Greater Dublin Area, draft transport strategy 2011 – 2030 / 2030 vision”, National Transport Authority, 2012 (?)

2259 –  New Zealand, “New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine Policy Statement on transport”, 2013

2260 – UK, Watford borough council, “Creating a vision for transport policy” appendix B” – downloaded and assumed year of publication 2015

2266 – UK, DfT “Action for Roads  – A network for the 21st century”; July 2013


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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