design transport

What makes a healthy street?

I was browsing Luton council’s new draft walking and cycling plan (consultation now open) recently. As part of their plan to move more of the town’s journeys to active transport, they use a set of indicators from the organisation Healthy Streets. They list ten things that determine a pedestrian’s experience of a street, and these indicators can be applied to any street in the world.

A sustainable transport system depends on a lot more people choosing to walk or cycle. One of the things that will determine which choice they make is the quality of the street. People don’t want to walk where it is noisy and polluted, or if they don’t feel safe. The attractiveness of the space matters. Some users will need places to stop and rest. Shade is appreciated. People need to feel welcome in the street if they are going to use it.

I see these sorts of considerations – or lack of them – in action every day on the school run. A lot of families walk already, and plenty more would choose to leave the car behind if the walk was better. Walking needs good streets and public spaces before we can hope to reduce car use. That makes pedestrian crossings, safety barriers and bollards, benches, street trees and grass verges a front line of climate action.

We should spend more money on these things, as a matter of public affluence – choosing to spend money on what we all share. It benefits everyone, and would improve lives without increasing private consumption, which is exactly the kind of growth we should be looking for in an age of environmental breakdown.


  1. So pleased you like the Healthy Streets approach. Luton has a commitment to reduce health inequalities and generally this is part of a myriad of interventions to reduce structural inequalities. Defo taking Earthbound’s feed back on public affluence and creating healthier more welcoming spaces for EVERYONE to enjoy! The council have a Healthy Place Framework which incorporates these ideas, the challenge is having the right level of funding to implement them but we are determined in Public Health to make the difference!!

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