Health benefits of streets quantified

This week Transport for London published the long-awaited Better Streets Delivered 2.  This beautifully presented report illustrates schemes across London that have been implemented over recent years, or are currently under construction, to improve the 10 Healthy Streets indicators.

Even just a flick through the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures show clearly how streets of all kinds have been made better for people:  Footways widened; direct crossings put in at the point where people want to cross the street; seating and planting; a range of measures to reduce the dominance of motorised vehicles on streets of all sizes.

It’s great to see such a variety of locations – town centres across outer London including Hornchurch, Bexley Heath, Southall and Harlesden; major junctions in central London including Holborn Circus, Euston Circus and Aldgate Gyratory; and local streets such as Bonnington Square in Lambeth and Royal College Street in Camden.  My favourite street in London, Van Gogh Walk, also features.


My favourite street in London: Van Gogh Walk (Image: TfL)

But what sets this report apart from its predecessor – Better Streets Delivered – is that the health benefit delivered by these street improvements has been calculated to show in £’s the human value of improving streets. For all the projects that I could get hold of some basic data on levels of people walking and cycling I applied the World Health Organisation’s Health Economic Assessment Tool for Walking & Cycling. This tool shows the monetised health benefit of people staying healthier and avoiding long term conditions because they were being more physically active.


Hornchurch town centre now delivers £500,000 in health benefits each year from increased footfall (Image: TfL)

You’ll see that the monetised health benefit varies depending on the levels of walking and cycling in each location. Some places in central London deliver £2-3m in health benefits each year but even more modest schemes in outer London deliver around £500,000 each year in health benefits.  Given that these calculations are conservative and (due to lack of data) often do not capture both the cycling and walking health benefits the reality is that these figures could probably be higher.

You can do these sums yourself, if you want to read more about how to calculate the monetised health benefits of transport projects, I have written this guidance.


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