While a significant amount of major transport infrastructure is planned for London, local-level transport projects are integral for supporting these larger schemes as well as encouraging more Londoners to walk, cycle and enjoy healthier lives. Through a panel of speakers and a workshop, the final event in our Priorities for Transport in a Growing London series looked at using community-level transport infrastructure to increase walking, cycling, and public health as well as opportunities and challenges surrounding its delivery. The event, hosted by Arup, is summarised below.
Dr Lucy Saunders, a public health specialist working with TfL and the GLA, explained the concept of Healthy Streets. This approach looks at how transport can make people’s lives better through outcomes such as improving air quality; providing a safe, relaxing and comfortable environment; facilitating inclusivity; and creating opportunities to walk and cycle. Healthy Streets is important because although Londoners are living longer, they’re doing so in poor health. Children in particular suffer from built environments that don’t allow for safe walking, cycling, and outdoor play, with 80% having less than an hour of physical activity per day. The mayor has recognised the value of Healthy Streets for improving public health, supporting it in the vision of A City for All Londoners.
10 outcomes of Healthy Streets
Mark Bland, Programme Manager for Enjoy Waltham Forest, shared lessons from delivering LB Waltham Forest’s Mini-Holland scheme. Firstly, strategic documents were critical to delivering the right infrastructure to time and budget. This strategic view also tapped into other funding sources by aligning with development schemes and capital renewal projects. Secondly, continuous consultation and scheme trials helped resolve issues and achieve buy-in. For example, a two-week traffic calming trial in Walthamstow Village using filtered permeability and changes to one-way systems allowed the community to provide feedback based on real-world experiences of the scheme’s impact. Finally, creating the Enjoy Waltham Forest programme and promoting a ‘streets for everybody’ message helped establish a broader, multi-modal remit beyond the more cycling-oriented mini-Holland concept.
Tom Platt, Head of Policy and Communications at Living Streets, offered a number of suggestions for increasing walking, starting with transport policies and strategies that put walking and cycling at the top of the road user hierarchy, supported by measures such as 20 mph streets. Embracing the Healthy Streets approach will further contribute to safe, attractive neighbourhoods where people don’t have to rely on cars. Behaviour change programmes, especially promoting active travel during the school run, can be particularly effective. Not only does this help children get more physical activity, the reduction in car traffic improves conditions for all road users. As communities, businesses and politicians increasingly understand the importance of walkability for creating liveable cities, London is now well-placed to push a walking agenda.
The second half of the event comprised a workshop in which participants worked in groups to develop their own Healthy Streets interventions for a variety of places in London. Locations ranged from major corridors to busy high roads to local streets, each with unique contexts and constraints. Popular physical measures included new pedestrian crossings, greening and street furniture decluttering. Many groups insisted that an area-wide approach is needed, encompassing side roads and nearby streets at risk of being overwhelmed by displaced motor vehicle traffic. Measures such as enforced 20 mph limits and behaviour change programmes were also suggested.
Groups frequently cited community buy-in as a challenge to delivering Healthy Streets, as residents and businesses may perceive street changes as being anti-car. Engaging communities early and building an evidence base to show the benefits of Healthy Streets could alleviate some conflict. Trials such as those used by Enjoy Waltham Forest were also considered valuable for helping people understand a scheme’s impact beyond drawings and modelling projections. Local authorities could further guide improvements through street design guidelines, embedding Healthy Streets principles into policy and more integration of land use and transport strategies.
For more information
- Summary of the first and second events in this series
- TfL’s Improving the health of Londoners: transport action plan (PDF)
- TfL’s Healthy Street for London (PDF)
- Enjoy Waltham Forest website
- Briefing of our MTS event series
Photos courtesy of Arup