Healthy Streets example Public Seating - South Tce, South Fremantle Taylor Burrell Barnett

If street design matters to you, take a look at Healthy Streets

Author

Senior Associate

Michael Willcock
Senior Associate

28 Feb 2022

In August 2021 I had the opportunity to participate in Lucy Saunders’ Healthy Streets Foundation Course and with the next course kicking off this month I thought it might be useful to others to hear about my experience… and why I’m encouraging planners, designers, engineers and more to get involved.

I am a person that prefers not to drive. I bought a small one-bedroom apartment close to three railway stations and several bus routes, to ensure that I did not need to rely on a car to get to work. Buying a small apartment was my way of compromising on location versus personal space, as inner-city housing is expensive. Happily, as a result, I can still save money on commutes by being able to take cheap public transport, or walk. Additionally, during WA’s very infrequent and short lockdowns, I reaped the benefits of being within reach of coffee shops, supermarkets, and parks.

As a planner, who walks pretty much everywhere, I can’t help but have a strong interest in street design, which is why when the opportunity arose to participate in the Healthy Streets Foundation Course in August 2021, I was keen to be involved.

About the course

The course, which was delivered by Lucy Saunders, the founder of Healthy Streets. included participants from a range of professional backgrounds across Australia. The six-week course was held over Zoom and was structured into weekly lectures with homework that was presented by attendees in an online tutorial.

The course introduces the 10 healthy street indicators. These have been carefully prepared by Healthy Streets, and are written in a way that the indicators avoid bias towards any particular profession and likewise, do not use jargon. The indicators are framed in a way that they use common language to describe what the experience of a street could be for people.

I was immediately taken with the clear links between public health, the roles of streets in improving peoples’ lives, and the relationships with wellbeing. I also see how the Healthy Streets indicators and the Healthy Streets Design Check tool can benefit our core business. As planners our goal is to shape exceptional places where communities and people belong. Streets are a core element of our communities. By using the Healthy Streets indicators, we can examine and objectively score how well a street is performing and to help improve a street design.

As I went through the course, it also became apparent that I was subconsciously choosing to walk certain routes even if they weren’t necessary the shortest . The Healthy Streets course provided clarity as to why this might be the case. Even my subconscious searched out streets which performed well on the indicators. It reinforced why the ten indicators are so important to ensure a street is as ‘healthy’ as possible.

Despite living in a low-density, sprawling, car-dominant city like Perth, I think there are plenty of opportunities to live a life without relying on a car. In Perth, it is exciting to see the levels of investment in public transport, and studies into mid-tier transit options like Trackless Trams. Equally, and more sobering, are major road projects like the proposed Scarborough Trench and the Orrong Road split level roads – which seem to ignore the context of the areas in which they are proposed and appear to ignore the likely amenity impacts of severance, noise, inconvenience, and impacts on the ability to further enhance the livability of these communities.

Healthy Streets are essential for cities, our profession, and our future

The course provides resources for helping designers, planners, engineers and decision makers to look at streets in a more holistic way that responds to their local context. I would encourage anyone with an interest to consider joining the course. Alternatively, if you’d like to chat about all things healthy streets please get in touch.

Related TBB Insights

Healthy Streets in WA: An Introduction - by Eric Denholm

Related Resources

Foundations Course Training Programme for best introductory training possible on all things Healthy Streets.

Designers Course Training Programme to learn more on the Design Check Tool.