Londoners can now plan daily activities or even decide where to live according to how healthy an area is, using a new dataset and interactive map which launches today.
Experts from UCL, Healthy Streets and Tranquil City have developed a dataset and interactive map - the Healthy Streets Index - which rates every street in the city.
The Index uses data that represents factors known to have the biggest impacts on our health and wellbeing, including air and noise pollution, street design - such as pavement space - traffic dominance, walkability - including neighbourhood connectivity and access to services and public transport - and trees.
Dr Ashley Dhanani (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL) explained: "Our understanding of the importance of our environments to physical and mental wellbeing has come to the fore as we have spent more time at home and in our local areas during the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
"The Healthy Streets Index uniquely offers a data led view of the physical and experiential quality of our environments. This enables us to make informed decisions about where we want to live, the routes we take on everyday journeys and where improvements are needed to ensure everyone can live in the healthiest environments possible."
Current lockdown and social distancing rules mean that many Londoners already actively plan daily routes for walking and cycling. The Index supports this as well as providing useful information for those who want to avoid busy and noisy roads, including parents of young children, older residents, asthma suffers and those sensitive to loud noise.
People looking to move home can also use the map to find neighbourhoods that suit their needs and preferences, while city planners and developers can use the data to improve equity and liveability across London.
The map shows that living in a lower socio-economic area doesn’t necessarily mean living on an unhealthy street, with streets in the boroughs of Lambeth, Redbridge and Newham featuring in the top 5% and streets including Park Lane and Brompton Road featuring in the bottom 5%.
"There are many people living on streets which are not healthy enough, but there are also healthy streets in some of the poorest areas," explained Lucy Saunders (Director, Healthy Streets). "The Healthy Streets Index shows at the city scale the challenge of creating Healthy Streets for everyone."
The data also reveals large variations between boroughs. In Camden one in six streets are in the top 5% of healthiest streets, whilst this is only one in 500 in Bexley. Hillingdon has the highest proportion of the least healthy streets, with one in 14 among the bottom 5%, whilst Islington has one in 25 of its streets in the bottom category.
"A key objective of the Healthy Streets Index is to quantify the human experience of streets across the multiple dimensions that define the street environment," explained urban design researcher Nicolas Palominos (UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis).
"Our citywide approach can enable insightful comparisons across different neighbourhoods and provide a better understanding of the kind of city we want to design, make and live in. "The less polluted, more people-friendly and liveable streets earn higher Healthy Streets scores reflecting the enhanced human experience of healthier street environments."
The datasets selected for inclusion in the Index include the most accurate measures of noise and air pollution, and a dataset showing the available pavement space, which is critical to streets being healthy, accessible and welcoming, particularly as Londoners seek to socially distance. Tree canopy cover and access to services, amenities and public transport are also incorporated.
Grant Waters (Director, Tranquil City) said: "Environmental and urban quality information can often be difficult to understand and take action from. The Healthy Streets Index was created specifically for this purpose, a simple index combining many important factors together so that everybody can easily understand the overall potential of their local environment to promote a healthy lifestyle."
Healthy Streets is a set of 10 evidence-based aspects of the human experience of being on streets, and was developed by Lucy Saunders through her research into the ways that cities, towns and street environments impact on our health and wellbeing. The Healthy Streets Indicators describe the important factors for ensuring streets are healthy, welcoming and accessible for all people to walk, cycle and spend time on.
The Healthy Streets Index combines the best available data to reflect these 10 Healthy Streets Indicators at a regional scale.
Healthy Streets has been adopted by the Mayor of London as the framework for transport and street planning. It is the framework for the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, a core policy of the London Plan and integrated into all of his statutory strategies.