Streets can be healthy for business as well as people

All bike riders know that streets that attract active travel—bikes and walkers—are healthy streets: they enable the physical exercise that is vital for the health of the human body and mind.

Less well know is the fact that these same streets also lead to healthy business activity.

Yet so often businesses in Australian cities and towns oppose improvements that will make their shopping districts healthy for humans because they think—wrongly—that this will be bad for business.

But there is cause for optimism, says a new study from London.

Transport for London decided to investigate the views of business people who were actively involved in some 50 projects to improve the business environment in districts across the breadth of London.

It focused on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) where funding is available for investment to promote and develop business.

The Districts were surveyed on their response to the Healthy Streets Approach, a framework used in London for putting human health at the heart of planning the city.

It aims to create vibrant, liveable streets where people choose to spend time and travel by walking, cycling and using public transport.

The findings of survey show that Business Improvement Districts see creating great environments for walking and cycling, and delivering Healthy Streets across London, as important for business.

Results also say that making it easier to walk and cycle is seen to boost the vitality of areas, increase footfall and help attract and retain staff.

Overwhelmingly, BIDs rated an appealing environment for spending time in (walking, and cycling) as either very important or moderately important for business performance.

Specifically, 95 per cent of BIDs said that a good walking environment was important to business performance, 85 per cent for cycling, and 97.5 per cent for spending time in.

The Healthy Streets Approach uses the below ten indicators to assess the experience of being on our streets. The indicators have been developed to measure the extent that individual streets are appealing places to walk, cycle and spend time.

There are 10 Healthy Streets Indicators for London. See how many apply to you local business district.

  1. Pedestrians from all walks of life. Streets should be welcoming places for everyone to walk, spend time in and engage in community life.
  2. People choose to walk, cycle and use public transport. A successful transport system enables more people to walk and cycle more often, either to make an entire journey or as part of a longer journey made using public transport.
  3. Clean air. Improving air quality delivers benefits for everyone and reduces unfair health inequalities.
  4. People feel safe. The whole community should feel comfortable and safe on our streets at all times. People should not feel worried about road danger.
  5. Not too noisy. Reducing the noise impacts of traffic will directly benefit health and improve the ambience of our streets.
  6. Easy to cross. Making streets easier to cross is important to encourage more walking and to connect communities.
  7. Places to stop and rest. A lack of resting places can limit mobility for certain groups of people.
  8. Shade and shelter. Providing shade and shelter enables everybody to use our streets, whatever the weather.
  9. People feel relaxed. More people will walk or cycle if our streets are not dominated by motor traffic, and if pavements and cycle paths are not overcrowded, dirty or in disrepair.
  10. Things to see and do. People are more likely to use our streets when their journey is interesting and stimulating, with attractive views, buildings, planting and street art.

Read more about Healthy Streets and download a PDF with more information about the approach.