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Opinion: Much to celebrate in quest for 'healthy streets' but more ideas needed to boost cycling

PUBLISHED: 12:30 25 July 2019

London Cycling Campaign's Simon Munk wants more improvements to boost cycling.

London Cycling Campaign's Simon Munk wants more improvements to boost cycling.

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Which borough has the healthiest streets?

A coalition of six active and sustainable travel campaigns has released the first London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard.

London Living Streets, London Cycling Campaign, CPRE London, RoadPeace, Sustrans and Campaign for Better Transport London worked together to develop the scorecard, tracking eight indicators that a borough is building "healthy streets".

"Healthy streets", a term increasingly used by the mayor and TfL, is an approach based in lots of evidence that shows getting more people walking, cycling and using public transport, and out of their cars, increases activity levels, reduces air pollution and results in both healthier streets and healthier residents. The eight indicators, including collision risk to those walking or cycling, resident activity levels and 20mph coverage of the borough, are taken from public data sources at TfL, the Department for Transport, and the aim is to update the scorecard every year - so we can all see which boroughs are pushing progress on Healthy Streets, and which aren't.

Inner London boroughs, probably due to the density of transport links, low car ownership levels and decades of higher levels of transport investment do better than their outer London equivalents, but even within and across these zones there are big differences.

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Overall, the top five boroughs are City of London, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Hackney and Islington. But Haringey, alongside the up and coming Waltham Forest, are way ahead for outer London, beating inner London boroughs such as Greenwich, Lewisham and, worst of inner London, Kensington & Chelsea. The devil, as they say, is in the detail, though.

How do Haringey and Camden do so well? And what do they not do so well on?

Camden, with a clearly progressive approach to transport and active travel, and bold leadership, does well on overall "mode share" (not many resident journeys are done by car), and on regular (five times a week) walking; very few residents own cars (lower levels than even Westminster, the City and Kensington & Chelsea) and nearly the entire borough is 20mph, while all of it has controlled parking. But while Camden has made great strides on building cycle tracks, not enough residents are cycling regularly and the borough is fairly weak on using modal filters to remove cut-through motor traffic from its side streets.

Haringey, meanwhile, has not shown much political bravery on "active travel" until very recently. However, it has done some things very right - most notably in keeping car ownership, and therefore use, low. While this may be due to levels of wealth or poverty compared to other outer London boroughs, it might also be because nearly all borough roads are 20mph and most have parking controls. As a result, walking and public transport "mode share" is high for outer London, as is the number of people who cycle five or more times a week. But the rate of serious and fatal collisions with those walking and cycling is far too high, and while Haringey has a surprisingly large number of modal filters ("bollards" for those who hate jargon), most were installed decades ago. And cycle tracks feature on very few roads.

In other words, both boroughs have real strengths, but both could do far better in several areas too. It's going to be very interesting to come back in a year to see where these boroughs are in the rankings then.

For more information and the full report lcc.org.uk/pages/healthy-boroughs-scorecard

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