Healthy streets is an excellent concept, tying together many of the different strands that we have pushed for over the years into a single concept of making our streets healthier places to be. This is a summary of the approach from Transport for London:
The Healthy Streets Approach puts people, and their health, at the heart of decision making. This results in a healthier, more inclusive city where people choose to walk, cycle and use public transport.
The Healthy Streets Approach is not an idealised vision for a model street. It is a long-term plan for improving Londoners’ and visitors’ experiences of our streets, helping everyone to be more active and enjoy the health benefits of being on our streets.
80 per cent of Londoners’ travel happens on our streets. The best way to get more people out walking, cycling and using public transport is to improve the quality of the experience of being on those streets. The Healthy Streets Approach focuses on creating streets that are pleasant, safe and attractive, where noise, air pollution, accessibility and lack of seating and shelter are not barriers that prevent people – particularly our most vulnerable people – from getting out and about.
Unlike some of the more “wishy washy” design guides that end up being ignored by road engineers, Healthy Streets has a series of very specific guidelines that are used to help improve street design outcomes across ten key indicators.
There are then detailed toolkits, including a checklist for designers to test the extent to which their proposal actually helps to create a ‘healthy street’. The overarching goal of healthy streets is to encourage more people to walk and cycle more often. This is because more physical activity creates a multitude of enormous health benefits, as well as environmental gains and also reducing pressure on other parts of the transport system.
It feels to me as though this area of street design is where Auckland has struggled to make progress in recent years. The balance of transport investment has shifted hugely towards public transport, walking and cycling in recent years, but when it comes to transforming our streets progress is still glacial – even in places like the city centre where the case for making streets more walkable and healthier is overwhelming. Efforts by Auckland Transport to improve street design, through initiatives like the Roads and Streets Framework are promising, but don’t seem to be having any effect yet (in fact the first thing it seems Auckland Transport is doing is undermining this framework before it’s even in place).
Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison talks the good talk in the Auckland Conversations event about wanting to make more progress. The proof will be in seeing change on the ground.