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Active Travel in Southwark 2017 – The health economic impact of walking and cycling

This is a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and was presented at a meeting at Tooley St on August 17th 2017 by Melinda Chau, Public Health Policy Officer, Southwark Council.

The report gives a summary of the health benefits of active travel (Reduced risk of heart disease,cancer, dementia etc; reduction in health damage from air pollution) and the policy environment (national and local (Mayor of London and borough).  The “Southwark Response” seems tiny compared with what is required to meet the policy aims.  Specific actions listed included:

  • Cycle to Work day – we saw the pathetic response from Southwark Council to that.
  • Six Dr Bike locations?  This must be just one session at 6 locations.  We do 20+ Dr Bikes on a voluntary basis each year and this hardly begins to meet the need.
  • A lot of schools work, but numbers are scarce.  My discussions with parents indicate that most children to not get offered Bikeability training.  Bike Exchange, Bike Clubs, Build-a-bike only reach a tiny proportion of the borough’s children.

However, this Assessment is not really about all the actons needed to create a cycling borough.  Its aim is to give us the health angle.  Then this material can be used to justify other initiatives.  It needs to be taken alongside the new Southwark Kerbside Strategy and the Southwark Cycling Strategy.  Seen from that perspective, this Strategic Needs Assessment can be very useful.

Below is a brief summary of the report.  The full report will eventually appear on the Southwark Council web site.  In the meantime copies can be obtained on request from

Active Travel in Southwark 2017

The health economic impact of walking and cycling

Southwark’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment


The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) is the ongoing process to identify the current and future health and wellbeing needs of our local population.  The purpose of the JSNA is to inform and underpin the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy and other local plans to improve the health of our residents

Southwark in 2017

Physical inactivity is a major contributor to excess weight and has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.  1 in 5 adults in Southwark participate in less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week

In Southwark, 55% of adults and 42% of children in Year 6 suffer from excess weight. This increases the risks of several health conditions for residents including Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and various cancers

Southwark ranked 10th highest in the 33 London boroughs for numbers cycling.  Nevertheless:

  • Only around 2% of residents cycled five times per week or more
  • The proportion of Southwark residents engaging in cycling has decreased from 2012/13 to 2014/15

The policy environment

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance for physical activity

encourages walking and cycling across a variety of sectors

  • Pedestrians and cyclists should be given the highest priority when developing the street infrastructure, and road space is reallocated to support active travel
  • A comprehensive network of walking and cycling routes should offer convenient, safe and attractive access to the community

The Mayor’s Office and Transport for London (TfL) have developed a Transport Action Plan to deliver benefits of active travel in London.

This action plan includes the Healthy Streets Approach: a framework of policies and strategies to reduce the reliance on car use.  The aim is to jointly increase physical activity and improve air quality at the:

  • Street Level by providing more space for walking and cycling
  • Transport Level by prioritising safer and more appealing routes
  • Strategic Level by planning new developments for active travel

The Southwark Draft Kerbside Strategy (KSS) builds upon the 2015 Southwark Cycling Strategy to support healthier neighbourhoods and create attractive, safe spaces that encourage more walking and through a series of policies.

In 2017 the London Mayor demonstrated a commitment to active travel by investing £190 million each year over the next five years in Healthy Streets improvements.  The appointment of London’s first Walking and Cycling Commissioner will enable the Mayor to deliver his pledge to make walking and cycling safer and easier in the capital

2,000 additional cyclists (doing 100minutes per week) each year in Southwark would have an estimated average annual benefit of almost £1M, based on a calculation using the WHO Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT). However, improved data and statistics for Southwark are necessary for accurate health economic assessments.


Southwark actively promotes active travel through several national and local campaigns

Throughout the year the Council supports a series of walking and cycling campaigns to encourage everyone to participate in active travel including:

  • Walk/Cycle to work day
  • World car-free day
  • UK Road Safety Week
  • Bike Week

 Southwark has committed key resources to supporting residents in walking and cycling

  • Cycling consultations, cycle confidence training and cycle parking are just a few of the online resources that have been mapped for public use
  • Bikeability, a cycling training programme, has already trained over 1050 individuals and an additional 2200 children in schools
  • Six ‘Dr Bike’ locations across the borough make bike maintenance easy as experienced cyclists and mechanics are available to thoroughly inspect bike functionality

Southwark schools will continue to promote sustainable travel through future active travel initiatives

In addition to existing initiatives of the TfL STARS programmes, schools will promote walking and cycling through active travel programmes in primary and secondary schools including:

  • Bike Exchange Project – Community members are invited to exchange unused bikes to raise funds for school active travel resources and campaigns. This programme also provides training up to 30 children on bike maintenance skills
  • Build-a-Bike – Engaging with up to 14 schools, children involved in this programme are given the opportunity to fix an unwanted bike and take the bike home.
  • Bike Clubs – After-school bike clubs to support and further enhance the skills learned through the Bikeability course

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