We’ve launched the very first Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award to celebrate the places that put urban walkers first.
Recent figures from the Department for Transport show that walking trips have declined by almost a fifth over the last decade, yet there’s mounting evidence to suggest that walkable towns and cities have proven health benefits for residents. We’re calling on local authorities to make urban areas better designed for walking.
Our chief executive, Vanessa Griffiths said: “Many of our towns and cities have been designed without people in mind, too often making places that are unsafe, unpleasant and difficult to navigate on foot. Since walking offers solutions to many of the nation’s most pressing challenges, this needs to change.
“Imagine if all of Britain’s town and cities truly put pedestrians first. If every resident’s natural impulse was to walk whenever they left their front door to make a short journey. It’s a bold vision, but an inspiring one.”
The latest study to make the case for walkable urban areas was published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. Researchers from Oxford University and the University of Hong Kong looked at 430,000 people living in 22 UK cities and found that more walkable neighbourhoods were associated with lower blood pressure and reduced risk of hypertension among its residents.
The results of the study suggest that poorly designed spaces inhibit physical activity and limited social interactions leading to more sedentary lifestyles and higher prevalence of chronic diseases and mental disorders.
This research highlights the need for greener towns and cities, with well-connected pedestrian routes and green spaces that make it easy to local amenities, as well as well-designed, well-kept streets and public spaces. The authors of the report stressed that “Well-designed walkable cities of today will be healthy cities of tomorrow.”
Vanessa added: “Our award showcases areas that are already doing this. The ten shortlisted neighbourhoods have been designed or improved to prioritise people on foot. We’re celebrating these areas, and asking more local authorities to think about how they could make small retrofits in design to improve walkability, to help improve the health and wellbeing of residents.”