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Healthy places through urban transport

Transport is both a problem and a solution for some of society’s biggest challenges including climate change, rising chronic diseases and growing healthcare expenditure. It was implicated in 3.7 million deaths from ambient air pollution in 2012 and annually results in 1.3 million deaths from road crashes.(1,2) Transportation infrastructure is also a major contributor to climate change, with 23% of carbon emissions attributed to the sector.(3) It is possible to design carbon neutral transport networks that support walking and cycling alongside other transport modes. Yet the legacy of carbon-based technologies and car-centred infrastructure will be with us for decades to come and continue to be designed in to new cities and communities.

A mixture of traffic reduction measures coupled with supportive infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport can result in benefits to local economies, social networks, health and the environment. Although there is an upfront cost to improving existing infrastructure, this can be recuperated in savings from reduced injuries and improved health. Where new transport systems and streets are being designed, city leaders and design teams should consider health at the earliest stages. Cost savings may occur across multiple city agencies or national departments and a more joined-up approach with strong leadership will be required to capture opportunities to improve urban infrastructure for complex challenges like health.

This video introduces a research collaboration between Arup, BRE, University College London, and AREA Research (Perkins + Will) as part of Arup’s Global Research Challenge 2015. The project has created a protocol that uses city data to design healthy places through urban transport. The full report will be available in early Spring 2016.

1. Air Pollution Factshseet. Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Department, World Health Organization; 2014.

2. Transport for Health: The Global Burden of Disease from Motorized Road Transport [Internet]. Seattle, WA: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; Washington, DC: The World Bank: Global Road Safety Facility; 2014.

3. Schaeffer R, Sims R, Creutzig F, Cruz-Nunez X, Dimitriu D, D’Agosto M, et al. Transport. In: Pichs-Madruga YS, Farahani E, Kadner S, Seyboth K, Adler A, Baum I, et al., editors. Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press; 2014.