As childhood obesity continues to plague London, a major coalition of campaigners gives awards to boroughs supporting active lifestyles
The London Healthy Streets Coalition – a group of health, environment and transport campaigners – has given awards to five London boroughs which are recognising the links between public health and active travel and enabling people to switch from cars to using public transport, walking and cycling instead.
38% of adults and 66% of children in London do not have the recommended amounts of physical activity and nearly 40% of all children in London are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is an especially difficult problem as it often leads to diabetes and high blood pressure, along with mental health problems. Walking and cycling are the main forms of exercise in the UK and are linked to lowering the Body Mass Index of both children and adults and leading to healthier and happier outcomes.
The coalition publishes an annual Scorecard giving marks to boroughs delivering six key measures shown to reduce car use and enable active travel, namely: Low Travel Neighbourhoods, 20 mph speed limits, controlled parking, bus priority, protected cycle lanes and safe ‘School Streets’ – all of which have a big impact, often literally overnight, on residents’ health.
City, Islington and Hackney top Healthy Streets Scorecard 2023. Hillingdon, Bexley and Havering named as lowest scoring councils
Top performing London Boroughs in the Healthy Streets Scorecard for 2023 are City, Islington, Hackney and Camden, with Southwark moving past Westminster to gain a Top 5 slot. Lurking at the bottom of the table are Hillingdon, Bexley and Havering with car-dominated environments failing to enable residents to switch to public transport, walking and cycling. Well known for its LTNs and cycle routes, award winning Waltham Forest leads the way in Outer London, scoring higher than some Inner London Boroughs. The worst performing Inner London boroughs are Kensington & Chelsea and Lewisham.
Five top boroughs given awards
This year, the coalition has given awards to five boroughs:
- Healthy Streets Scorecard overall winner: City of London – the London area with the highest overall Healthy Streets score leads the way on delivering schemes for walking, wheeling & cycling, as well as public transport, and reducing and restricting car use. It may have an inherent advantage on scores given its small number of residents, but its transport strategy is widely lauded as visionary and, importantly, the City’s actions often exceed their words – with schemes such as Bank Junction, Aldgate Square and the upcoming St Paul’s scheme.
- Top Inner London Borough: Islington – progress on delivery may have slowed slightly from the start of the pandemic but Islington is the top-scoring Scorecard inner London borough for good reason, with high levels of delivery on 20mph speed limits, bus priority, LTNs, school provision and controlled parking.
- Top Outer London borough: Waltham Forest – the north-east London borough is becoming famous, and has won several major awards, for delivering Healthy Streets schemes. It was one of three outer London boroughs awarded £30 million from the Mayor’s “mini-Holland” programme in 2013. Its schemes from that period are class-leading and continue to set a quality bar the rest of London struggles to match. And it has since gone on year after year to deliver more.
Some boroughs have scored higher (or lower) than we would expect given their housing density.
The more densely populated boroughs have an advantage in the Scorecard, so we now also publish data showing the actual scores boroughs achieve compared to the score they are predicted to achieve based on their housing density.
- Inner London Borough outscoring on housing density: Camden – Camden is a high-performing inner London borough on the Scorecard year after year, but it notably delivers beyond its expected score when adjusted for density compared to other inner London boroughs.
- Outer London borough outscoring on housing density: Richmond – Richmond is a relatively affluent and low-density outer London borough but far outperforms similar boroughs on delivery of Healthy Streets measures. Its delivery of 20mph speed limits on borough-controlled roads is particularly impressive.
New mapping for Scorecard 2023
The Healthy Streets Scorecard coalition continues to upgrade and develop new measures to improve the accuracy of its data and develop and introduce new scores every year. As a result, the Scorecard is now arguably the most advanced tool for measuring council progress on measures to reduce car use and enable alternatives to help London cut emissions and be healthier.
This year, the coalition has mapped Controlled Parking Zones in a move to improve data on that metric; and developed a new scoring system based partially on ‘opportunity to park’ with entire borough, or large, zones, allowing residents to park anywhere, scored lower than smaller zones based on a few streets.
The coalition also mapped the entire bus network to establish which boroughs have the most bus lanes or other ‘bus priority’ measures, providing faster journeys, and integrated this into the final borough scores this year.
Scores were once again adjusted for density to account for natural ‘bias’ where higher density areas score higher. This shows some councils you’d expect to score poorly score well, while some you’d expect to score very well (Kensington & Chelsea) score worse than expected.
*excludes City of London
*excludes City of London
% of streets with Low Traffic Neighbourhood
% of schools with traffic-free School Streets
0% (Bexley, Hammersmith & Fulham)
School STARS (% of maximum possible points in promoting sustainable travel to school)
Controlled Parking Zone coverage final scores as %
20mph speed limits as % of borough managed roads
100% (Camden, City of London, Hackney, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Richmond, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster)
Cars registered per 100 households
% of polluting diesel cars
% of bus routes with bus priority (through bus lanes or modal filters)
Input indicator summary results:
- 20mph speed limits – postcode lottery for safe streets. Three London boroughs have less than 10% of appropriate streets covered by a 20mph speed limit (Barnet, Bromley, Hillingdon). In five others, less than a quarter of appropriate streets have a safe speed limit.
- Road casualties, 2022 target missed. London has seen a decline of 38% of fatal and serious road casualties since 2005-2009, but that misses the Mayor’s interim “Vision Zero” target of a 65% fall from the 2005-09 baseline by a long way. Worse, those rates miss the fact that pedestrians and motorcyclists have fared far worse than other modes, and that cyclist road casualties have actually risen by 39%.
- Car ownership – steadily falling in London. The latest data shows 2.45 million cars registered in London, a steady but slow downward trend from 2.47m and 2.51m in the two previous years.
- Polluting cars – some progress in Inner London. In Camden, diesel cars have reduced from 17% to 15% and a diesel surcharge was introduced on resident parking permits. The highest proportion of electric vehicles were in Camden, Westminster and Tower Hamlets at 15% and City of London and Newham at 14%.
- Parking controls – many councils are still not using the most important tool at their disposal to reduce car trips. Many boroughs now control parking on all streets. But Bromley, bottom of the table, controls parking on fewer than 10% of streets; ten boroughs control parking on fewer than a quarter of their streets; and Inner London borough Lewisham remains way below all other Inner London Boroughs with just 21% of streets covered.
- School Streets – good news for some children, bad news for others – Despite mass expansion of ‘School Streets’ (where cars can’t drive onto the street during pick-up and drop-off times) across London, Bexley and Hammersmith & Fulham have none at all. In nine other boroughs, fewer than 15% of schools benefit from a School Street. There is some good news for young people in Croydon and Havering which have both increased their scores by 12% and in Lewisham, Wandsworth and Ealing who continue to roll out School Streets at pace.
- The positive impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) means boroughs are planning more. Despite what a minority of vocal opponents may say, LTNs are popular and bedding in well and boroughs are planning to introduce more in the coming year. This year Haringey made most progress, doubling the area covered to 34% of suitable roads. Hackney still tops the table at 69% with Waltham Forest and Islington next at 48% and 47%. Other high scoring boroughs are Newham, Southwark, Merton and Hounslow. Hammersmith and Fulham introduced ‘Clean Air Neighbourhoods’ which are like LTNs but allow local drivers through. The first schemes introduced have been effective at reducing external traffic, even on ‘boundary’ main roads (22% drop in traffic on the New Kings Road at Munster Road and a 17% drop on the Wandsworth Bridge Road south). We await further evidence on whether the schemes will continue to reduce local car trips and encourage active travel in the manner full LTNs do. Until then, they are awarded one third of the score full LTNs receive. Five boroughs have very low (under 10%) of their residential streets covered by an LTN: Bexley, Westminster, Bromley, Kingston and Kensington and Chelsea.
- Protected cycle track steadily increasing – The past year saw three times more new cycle track installed than 2022. Top of the list for rollout in the last year are Redbridge, Croydon, Lewisham and Ealing, though these boroughs still have a long way to go to match the top boroughs. The City still has the most cycle track per km of road. Waltham Forest, Enfield, Hounslow and Camden also top the list and continued to implement new schemes. Disappointingly, this year also saw the removal of some ‘temporary’ schemes implemented during the pandemic.
- Bus priority – some passengers much better off than others – Among Inner London boroughs, Hackney, Islington and Lambeth have 40% to 50% of routes prioritised for buses (with bus lanes or similar). At the other end of the scale, just 5% of bus routes have bus priority in Kensington & Chelsea. Among Outer London boroughs, Ealing, Barking and Dagenham, Merton, Waltham Forest, Hounslow, Brent and Greenwich score well with between 10-20% priority. But many boroughs have little or no priority for buses: Bexley, Bromley, Redbridge, Barnet and Sutton are all under 5%.
- Modeshare and Active Travel Rates – data not available this year
“People who have a physically active lifestyle have a 20-35% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and stroke compared to those who have a sedentary lifestyle. Regular physical activity is also associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and colon/breast cancer and with improved mental health. In older adults physical activity is associated with increased functional capacities. It is absolutely shocking that boroughs are failing to deliver the streets we need to avoid these devastating diseases.”
Alice Roberts, Head of Campaigns, CPRE London1
“Some London boroughs, despite declaring a climate emergency, continue to send a message to residents that the car is king, and the only mode switch needed is perhaps from a diesel SUV to an electric one years away. But the evidence and the science says starkly otherwise. We need every borough – particularly those lagging behind such as Kensington & Chelsea, Bromley and Hillingdon – to get moving on switching away from cars whenever possible, on actively enabling active and sustainable travel modes. No more excuses – the clock is ticking.”
Simon Munk, Head of Campaigns, London Cycling Campaign
“Although London has struggled to meet its 2022 interim Vision Zero target of a 65% decline in serious and fatal road casualties from the 2005 to 2009 average, much is being done to tackle speed – the single biggest factor in road casualties. Two more boroughs, Kingston-upon-Thames and Newham, have announced that they plan to move to a 20mph default speed limit, bringing the total to 21 out of the 33 boroughs. By the end of 2023, TfL plans to make almost all of the Red Route roads inside the north and south circular 20mph meaning that there will be 20mph speed limits on almost every road in Inner London. This, coupled with far higher levels of enforcement from the Metropolitan Police, including the use of five new mobile speed cameras, will help to increase the impact of these lower speed limits.”
Jeremy Leach, Action Vision Zero