We all want our cities to be more walkable - but what do they need to make this happen? Christy Acton, our Walking Cities project manager, introduces the first of 10 blog posts from our his team exploring key aspects that contribute to places that are championing walking for their residents. 

Walking is so simple. But it is a huge challenge to encourage and enable residents living in the most inactive parts of the country to change travel behaviour, and get more activity into their complex lives.

It is only through the provision of a range of bespoke activities that a programme can facilitate such a change to take place.

Why cities need Living Streets

This post is the first in a series exploring key aspects that contribute to places that are championing walking for their residents. We will be looking at subjects ranging from urban design to strategic thinking with an appreciation of the small things in between.

And we start, if you will forgive my obvious bias, with... us!

Since February 2014, our Walking Cities programme, via our projects in Birmingham, Leeds/Bradford and Norwich, has devised and delivered a range of interventions which have supported residents to build walking into their day-to-day lives.

Led walks, personal walking pledges, small grants funds, Community Streets Audits, and major neighbourhood interventions such as Beat the Streets, represent a range of tools that have dynamically engaged with target audiences in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Getting results

norwich walking

Since delivery began in our Walking Cities 11 months ago, almost 13,000 people have received a walking message, and 7,000 of these have actively participated in led walks or other walking-based activities.

A recent survey of a sample of these participants has revealed that 49% are now more likely to choose walking and 47% feel fit and healthy as a result of being involved in the programme.

The programme has also enabled some residents to make significant changes in their lives to become more active. In all, it has been successful in improving peoples’ lives at an individual level, a community level and a strategic city-wide level.

In all city regions, Living Streets has become embedded with local authority partners and is starting to create a cultural and strategic shift towards more walkable cities, amongst residents, professionals and decision makers. We expect this ambitious approach to deliver more wide-scale change in the coming years.

The benefits of walking to health are becoming better understood and widely accepted. A recent report from Cambridge University stated that physical inactivity was a bigger problem than the nation’s levels of obesity, urging everyone to take up 20 minutes walking a day.

Using findings from Living Streets’ walking cities work in Norwich, the British Medical Journal also recently identified the benefits of group walking activities to improve a range of common health ailments.