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TOPIC: How do we make our streets healthy?

How do we make our streets healthy?
05 Oct 2017 23:21 #3238

Basil Clarke Basil Clarke's Avatar Topic Author
[Original article]

Last week saw the first Healthy Streets conference, held appropriately enough in Walthamstow, the location of pioneering Mini Holland and Villageisation schemes.  More than 300 attendees were there to explore the connections between public health and transport strategies.  Topics covered included health-led street design, re-allocation of road space, behaviour change and measures to improve air quality.

Public health specialists: "Active travel is the wonder drug"

Healthy Streets is also the title of a package of proposed measures being put forward by the Mayor of London.  An important member of the team working on this is public health specialist Lucy Saunders, who came up with the idea of the wheel showing ten Healthy Streets indicators.

healthy streets indicatorsThe Healthy Streets Indicators Wheel devised by public health specialsit Lucy Saunders

Lucy Saunders places great emphasis on the need for more "active travel" (ie walking, cycling or public transport):

“Most children in London don’t play out on the street. As a result eight out of ten children in London don't even reach the bare minimum level of physical activity they need to stay healthy. This is a new phenomenon – this is the first generation of children who have been this inactive so we don't even know what it is storing up for their future.

"The reason that public health specialists like me are so evangelical about active travel is because we know that it is the only option for the majority of people aged five to 105 to get some activity every day,” she said. “That is what we need to stay healthy. So, for us active travel is the wonder drug. Having said that, it is not easy to make it happen - we need to entice people out onto the streets, to make streets pleasant places to be. We need walking and cycling to be the better option than getting into a warm, cosy car where it is effortless to move around.

“We need places where people have a reason to connect, streets where can you cycle side by side with someone else, where pavements are wide enough to put some chairs out so people can sit and chat. It means that people have an easy way of crossing the road and can travel in ways that involves human interaction.”

"A whole transport network that encourages more cycling and walking"

One of the people tasked with helping create the kinds of streets that Lucy Saunders says we need is Will Norman, London's Cycling and Walking Commissioner.  Cycling and walking are key elements of the Mayor's Draft Transport Strategy, which Will Norman says is designed to create "a healthy street environment that goes beyond individual streets to develop a whole transport network that encourages more cycling and walking, building 10 to 15 minute journeys into everyday routines”.

The draft strategy is seeking to remove three million car trips a day, ending car dominance on residential streets, giving pedestrians priority over vehicles, reducing car parking and through traffic on smaller roads and redesigning dangerous junctions so people feel safer to use them by bike and on foot.  Research shows that many more people would cycle if they felt safer, so Will Norman will continue building a comprehensive network of cycle routes.

Time to recognise the true cost of motor vehicles

Two speakers turned the conference's attention to the economic aspects of London's car domination.  Nick Lester-Davis, vice-chair at the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council, believes that increasing the cost of parking would help cut traffic. “Most councils in London heavily subsidise residential parking. It is very unlikely that any local authority is covering the full cost of residents permit schemes. So, you have authorities looking to increase the mode share of cycling and walking while at the same time using Council Tax payers’ money to subsidise car ownership, which is the minority of residents.”

Dr Robert Davis of the Road Danger Reduction Forum said it was time to recognise the true cost of motor vehicles to the the environment and society.  “We live in a car economy with money shovelled towards motoring. We need to think about actually paying people to walk and cycle. That is the sort of thought experiment we need to push out there. It is up to us to say, there are different forms of transport and you can use whatever you want. But you have to pay for them.”

He added: “The costs of driving in terms of space consumption, noxious emissions and danger posed to other road users can be monetised. We need to dent their sense of entitlement, and the view that cyclists are getting away with things – there is a cultural battle that needs to be fought.”

This article is largely based on a detailed report about the Healthy Streets conference on the TransportXtra website, though I have added some of my own comments.


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How do we make our streets healthy?
11 Oct 2017 11:51 #3239

It all becomes predictable but yet another report, this time from leading health experts (including NHS England chair), academics (including one key HMG advisor) and industry, highlight that London’s street aren’t working with congestion on the rise and air pollution a major health issue. Both will get worse without action as our population rises. (Half of London’s air pollution is estimated to come from transport and only last week it was revealed that ALL OF US are breathing in life affecting levels of PM2.5’s; these being the smallest particles which get through the walls of our lungs into the bloodstream, and nce there increase heart attack and stroke levels and are now being linked to dementia amongst other nasties. The same PM2.5’s have been identified as moving across the placenta to detrimentally affect the unborn child.)
Various solutions proposed have the theme which has been oft repeated: more active travel (walking and cycling) and use public transport rather than the car.
A super-enquiry has also just been announced, covering four select Committees, to address HMG’s latest response to the air quality problem as evidence of its serious health impact continues to mount. (That’s the response they have been forced into, twice, by the Supreme Court after sitting on their hands for years and which still look inadequate). Fingers crossed there.
As a side show, the local angst versus cycle lanes as a major factor in air quality is nothing more than a scandalous distraction: ask yourself, in the round, does a journey by feet or cycle add more to the weight of atmospheric pollution killing us all by the thousand annually than exhaust gasses and brake / tyre wear? As with the “100’s of businesses will close on Green Lanes” due to the cycle lanes, promoting such palpable nonsense really should have been terminated long since. Curiously we have seen quite a few businesses opening in PG of late; perhaps they didn’t have the script.

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