Intended for healthcare professionals


Low traffic neighbourhoods and population health

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 22 February 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n443
  1. Anthony A Laverty, lecturer1,
  2. Anna Goodman, assistant professor2,
  3. Rachel Aldred, professor3
  1. 1Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Active Travel Academy/School of Architecture and Cities, University of Westminster, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A A Laverty a.laverty{at}

Evidence shows powerful local improvements

Car use harms health, the environment, and society in many ways. In 2019, 1752 people were killed by vehicle collisions in Great Britain, with another 25 945 seriously injured.1 Motor traffic is also a major contributor to air pollution, which is estimated to cause 28 000-36 000 deaths in the UK annually.2Traffic noise pollution is an under-recognised health harm, associated with increased risk of stroke and premature death.3 Car travel increases sedentary time and is a major opportunity cost in terms of the physical and mental health gains that could have been achieved by walking or cycling instead. This is before we consider the urgent need to decarbonise our transport system to mitigate climate crisis.

Reallocating road space

The covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have substantially disrupted travel patterns. With public transport capacity considerably reduced, and seeking to avoid a car based recovery, the UK government in May 2020 announced £250m (€290m; $350m) in emergency active travel funding and encouraged local authorities to reallocate road space from cars to walking and cycling.4 While …

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