September 14, 2023
Active Travel
Interviews & Opinions

What Are Healthy Streets?

By Jonathan Oldaker

With our increasingly noise and air polluted urban life, the Healthy Streets concept has gained prominence as a way to transform our cityscapes into more liveable and sustainable environments, especially in central London. 

Healthy streets strive to prioritise the well-being of residents, promote active transportation, and enhance the overall quality of life. Let’s consider what makes streets “healthy” and why it matters.

The Healthy Streets Scorecard

One valuable tool for assessing the healthiness of streets is the Healthy Streets Scorecard. This comprehensive ranking system, used by London boroughs, evaluates each borough in 10 key areas to determine how streets contribute to residents’ physical and mental well-being. 

In 2023, Islington was named the borough with the healthiest streets for the third year running. Its continuation of successful schemes, such as school streets and reduced speed limits, have helped the borough retain the title. You can check out how your borough faired in the Healthy Streets scorecard here.

The criteria when determining a London Borough healthy street score includes:

  1. Clean Air: Healthy streets prioritise clean air by reducing pollution levels. Strategies may involve promoting public transportation, encouraging cycling and walking, and implementing low-emission zones. Boroughs that have benefitted the most have incorporated schemes like school streets, low-traffic neighbourhood schemes and lower speed limits in certain areas. 
  2. Active Travel: Encouraging active transportation options like walking and cycling is key to healthy streets. This helps reduce reliance on cars, combats congestion and promotes physical activity. The healthy street scorecard looks at the proportion of trips made by sustainable modes such as walking, cycling or public transport.
  3. Safety: Safe streets are vital for everyone, especially pedestrians and cyclists. Measures such as traffic calming, well-marked crossings, and reduced speed limits contribute to safer environments.
  4. Public Spaces: Healthy streets provide ample public spaces for relaxation and social interaction. Parks, squares, and pedestrian-friendly areas enhance the overall quality of life.
  5. Urban Greenery: Incorporating greenery into urban landscapes is vital. Trees, planters, and green spaces improve air quality and create aesthetically pleasing environments in otherwise built-up areas.
  6. Noise Reduction: Reducing noise pollution enhances residents’ mental and physical health. Strategies include better road design and noise barriers.
  7. Accessibility: Healthy streets are accessible to all, regardless of age or mobility. This involves creating infrastructure accommodating wheelchairs, strollers, and other mobility aids.
LTN in Hackney

The Benefits of Healthy Streets

Creating healthy streets brings numerous benefits to communities:

  1. Improved Health: Healthy streets promote physical activity by encouraging walking and cycling, reducing the risk of chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease.
  2. Cleaner Air: Measures to reduce pollution improve air quality, making streets safer and healthier for everyone.
  3. Safer Communities: Reduced traffic speeds and improved road safety measures lower accident rates and enhance overall safety.
  4. Stronger Communities: Public spaces and greenery promote social interaction, fostering a sense of community among residents.
  5. Economic Boost: Attractive, pedestrian-friendly streets often attract businesses and customers, boosting local economies.
  6. Reduced Congestion: Encouraging alternatives to driving alone reduces traffic congestion, easing daily commutes.

We are strong supporters of healthy streets, and the introduction of street furniture in urban areas plays a vital role. Street furniture, such as planters and outdoor benches, adds a touch of greenery and comfort to city landscapes, offering spaces to socialise and enjoy the environmental benefits of green spaces.

Integrating street furniture like planters and benches into our urban planning can enhance our communities’ overall health and well-being while making our streets more attractive and functional.

Conclusion: A Greener, Healthier Future

Healthy streets are not just a trendy concept but a vital component of sustainable, liveable cities. They prioritise clean air, active travel, safety, and accessible public spaces, contributing to better physical and mental health for all residents.

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