Walking and cycling can make a considerable contribution to sustainable transport goals, building healthier and more sustainable communities and contributing to traffic and pollution reduction. There have been many national and local initiatives to promote walking and cycling, but without a long term vision and consistent strategy it is difficult to see how a significant change may be achieved. This paper presents three alternative visions for the role of walking and cycling in urban areas for the year 2030: each vision illustrates a 'desirable' walking- and cycling-oriented transport system against a different 'exogenous social background'. These visions have been developed through a process of expert discussion and review and are intended to provide a stimulus for debate on the potential for and desirability of such alternative futures. Each is based on the UK and represents a substantial change to the current situation: in particular, each of the visions presents a view of a society where walking and cycling are considerably more important than is currently the case and where these modes cater for a much higher proportion of urban transport needs than at present. The visions show pictures of urban environments where dependence on motor vehicles has been reduced, in two of the visions to very low levels. The methodological approach for devising visions is informed by work on 'utopian thinking': a key concept underlying this approach is one of viewing the future in social constructivist terms (i.e. the future is what 'we', as a society, make it) rather than considering the future as something that can be 'scientifically' predicted by the extrapolation of current trends. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.