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Healthy Streets Approach

What are healthy streets?

Healthy streets refer to streets and neighbourhoods that enable us to walk and cycle safely.

The design of the streets around us can either support and encourage us to walk or cycle as part of our daily routine, or present barriers.

Think about it! If you live somewhere with cycle lanes and a safe speed limit, you’re probably more likely to want to cycle than if you live by a busy main road with no safe cycle lanes.

People’s choices to walk and cycle places are shaped by their environment. People will not cycle or walk in streets where they do not feel safe or welcomed.

woman cyclist in healthy streets cycle lane

In this way, the design of our streets can have a very real impact on our physical health.

The Healthy Streets Approach

The Healthy Streets Approach has the potential to create a shared framework and common vision across sectors including Health, Transport, Spatial Planning, Environment and Housing.  

It emphasises the importance of language. Walking, cycling and driving are all modes of transport. The Healthy Streets Approach doesn’t use the terms ‘pedestrians’, ‘cyclists’, and ‘drivers’. That’s because these words suggest three different groups of people fighting for a share of the street space.

Healthy Streets enables the designer to consider the range of health impacts of their design, and to ensure walking and cycling are prioritised, rather than just accommodated.

Healthy Streets Graphic

The brilliance of this approach is that by supporting the development of active streets, we are also supporting the environment and active travel, whilst creating more engagement opportunities with local businesses. This can also support economic resilience.

These pictures illustrate the difference between streets that are designed for cars compared to people. 

Example of a Norwich street
Don’t just show what the street looks like
People using the street
Show how people use the street
A typical road junction in the UK
The street just ACCOMMODATES people
An example of a healthy street
People are PRIORITISED on the street

Could you identify a healthy street?

As a simple exercise to try assessing a healthy street, ask yourself:

  • Imagine you had an injured leg and were walking using crutches. Is there anywhere to rest on this street?
  • If you were looking after someone else’s children, would you be comfortable cycling in the carriageway with them?
  • Imagine you were walking along the pavement with a friend. Could you comfortably walk side by side and hold a conversation?

If you answer “no” to any of these, the street design could improve to better support healthy living.

Shape overlay

Healthy Streets Training

We are collaborating with Norfolk County Council to train transport planners on how to use the Healthy Streets Approach.

Email [email protected] to find out more about how to implement the Healthy Streets Approach. Click the button below to get in touch with our Active Environments team who can help you further.

Get in touch with our team