The Healthy Streets Approach™ was developed by Lucy Saunders through her research into the health impacts of transport, public realm and urban planning. It turns out that the key elements necessary for public spaces to improve people’s health are the same as those needed to make urban places socially and economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable.
Lucy has distilled these down to the 10 Healthy Street Indicators™. Focussed on the human experience, these indicators show what really matters on all streets, everywhere, for everyone.
10 Healthy Street Indicators™
Everyone feels welcome
Streets must be welcoming places for everyone to walk, spend time and engage with other people. This is necessary to keep us all healthy through physical activity and social interaction. It is also what makes places vibrant and keeps communities strong. The best test for whether we are getting our streets right is whether the whole community, particularly children, older people and disabled people are enjoying using this space.
People choose to walk and cycle
We all need to build regular activity into our daily routine and the most effectively to do this is to walk or cycle for short trips or as part of longer public transport trips. People will choose to walk and cycle if these are the most attractive options for them. This means making walking and cycling and public transport use more convenient, pleasant and appealing than private car use.
People feel relaxed
The street environment can make us feel anxious – if it is dirty and noisy, if it feels unsafe, if we don’t have enough space, if we are unsure where to go or we can’t easily get to where we want to. All of these factors are important for making our streets welcoming and attractive to walk, cycle and spend time in.
Easy to cross
Our streets need to be easy to cross for everyone. This is important because people prefer to be able to get where they want to go directly and quickly so if we make that difficult for them they will get frustrated and give up. This is called ‘severance’ and it has real impacts on our health, on our communities and on businesses too. It is not just physical barriers and lack of safe crossing points that cause severance, it’s fast moving traffic too.
Air quality has an impact on the health of every person but it particularly impacts on some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the community – children and people who already have health problems. Reducing air pollution benefits us all and helps to reduce unfair health inequalities.
Not too noisy
Noise from road traffic impacts on our health and wellbeing in many ways, it also makes streets stressful for people living and working on them as well as people walking and cycling on them. Reducing the noise from road traffic creates an environment in which people are willing to spend time and interact.
Places to stop and rest
Regular opportunities to stop and rest are essential for some people to be able to use streets on foot or bicycle because they find travelling actively for longer distances a challenge. Seating is therefore essential for creating environments that are inclusive for everyone as well as being important for making streets welcoming places to dwell.
People feel safe
Feeling safe is a basic requirement that can be hard to deliver. Motorised road transport can make people feel unsafe on foot or bicycle, especially if drivers are travelling too fast or not giving them enough space, time or attention. Managing how people drive so that people can feel safe walking and cycling is vital.
People also need to feel safe from antisocial behaviour, unwanted attention, violence and intimidation. Street lighting and layout, ‘eyes on the street’ from overlooking buildings and other people using the street can all help to contribute to the sense of safety.
Things to see and do
Street environments need to visually appealing to people walking and cycling, they need to provide reasons for people to use them – local shops and services, opportunities to interact with art, nature, other people.
Shade and shelter
Shade and shelter can come in many forms – trees, awnings, colonnades – and they are needed to ensure that everyone can use the street whatever the weather. In sunny weather we all need protection from the sun, in hot weather certain groups of people struggle to maintain a healthy body temperature, in rain and high winds we all welcome somewhere to shelter. To ensure our streets are inclusive of everyone and welcoming to walk and cycle in no matter the weather we must pay close attention to shade and shelter.
For more about the Healthy Streets Indicators™ read the Guide to the Healthy Streets Indicators
A short film introducing the Healthy Streets Indicators