It is a radical reworking of road engineering, which for more than 40 years have given priority to a smooth flow of cars. Under the new scheme, to be set out in the National Walking Strategy due for publication this winter, pedestrians will have priority in urban areas. Cyclists will have second priority, public transport will be third and motor vehicles last.
How the strategy will be implemented will be left to local authorities, but Department for Transport documents make the government's preferences clear. Measures likely to have the greatest impact include cutting the time taken for lights to turn red against cars at pedestrian crossings and junctions where pedestrian green lights are activated by push buttons.
Rod Tolley, director of the Centre for Alternative and Sustainable Transport at Staffordshire University, who advised the government on walking strategies, said: 'Streets should not be just for transport. They are for shopping, doing business and living in'.
Dorset CC engineers have been reducing the response time when someone presses the button at a crossing and turning the lights red for longer to give people more time to cross. A spokesman described early trials as 'a great success'.