Dublin primed to adapt ‘Healthy Streets’ approach to shake motor traffic dominance

Dublin is in a good place to take on the ‘Healthy Streets’ approach to shake motor traffic dominance, according to the public health specialist and transport planner who created the method.

Lucy Saunders was awarded Transport Planner of the Year in 2015 for leading on Transport for London’s transport action plan which focused on improving the health. She said that this ‘Healthy Streets’ approach can be applied anywhere but that Dublin had assets which put it in a good position to adopt the approach.

“The Healthy Streets approach was not developed for any particular place,” said Saunders, told IrishCycle.com at Velo-City earlier this year. “It’s what humans need for the environment to be fit for human consumption. The Healthy Streets approach can be used anywhere and it’s about starting every decision thinking ‘what will make this a better place for people.”

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Saunders worked with Transport for London on the concept of Healthy Streets before branching out and setting up her consultancy Healthy Streets Services.

The Healthy Streets Indicators, which are interconnected, are — pedestrians from all walks of life; people choose to walk and cycle, and use public transport; clean air; people feel safe; not too noisy; easy to cross; shade and shelter; places to stop and rest; things to see and do; and people feel relaxed.

Saunders has outlined that while her starting point might be from a public health background, the indicators go across disciplinary boundaries and includes what generally makes streets work for all.

“It’s obvious how well this would work in Dublin, you have a lot of good assets to work with already,” said Saunders.

“It’s about changing priorities when you’re making choices about what you’re going to do and saying ‘in this space, what’s going to make it good for people?’ and then second you think how do you move all the traffic through. But you’re always doing it in the framework first about what will be good for people,” she said.

Saunders said that the traditionally approach has been the oppsite — looking first at the question of “how do we get the traffic through” and only afterwards, she said, “we think how do we try to adapt this to make it less bad for the people using the space.”

On how well placed Dublin is, Saunders said: “There’s other cities in the world where they are really low density, their buildings don’t have really interesting frontages, people aren’t going in and out, there isn’t really any public transport to speak of.”

“But in Dublin you have got lively streets, I know this week [in June] is a hot week and people are out, but the people I know from Dublin say you can go on certain streets any time of the year and there’s people out there having a good time and that is really an important asset to build on,” she said.

IMAGE: Transport For London outlines how the cycle path on the Victoria Embankment in Westminster is an example of how “high quality infrastructure makes cycling feel comfortable on
roads with heavy traffic.” (Photo: TfL)

Saunders continued: “You have got the public transport but it’s not getting the space that it deserves and you have people who are really passionate about getting around the city more easily by bike who are really keen about bringing about changes that everybody would benefit from. This city would be a better city for everyone if it was less traffic dominated, whether they ride a bicycle or they don’t.”

“Importantly, you don’t put the responsibility of making public spaces and streets good entirely on the shoulders of the traffic engineer,” she said. “They have a limited role in what streets feel like. Healthy Streets brings together a whole load of other people in the city to make the streets better and that includes businesses, local politicians, the general public, schools, health care — everybody comes together and does their bit to help make the streets better.”

Transport For London’s Improving the health of Londoners: Transport Action Plan can be found online. More details of Healthy Streets and of Saunders’ work can be found via healthystreets.com.

IMAGES BELOW: The in-tweet images below show Francis Road — also part of the Waltham Forest Mini-Holland scheme — won the Healthy Street of the Year Award 2018:

This article is part of IrishCycle.com’s extra coverage of the Velo-City 2019 conference, which saw international cycling experts meet in Dublin. You can find more of our Velo-City coverage to date here

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