Since the initiation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Healthy Cities movement over thirty years ago there have been increased efforts to understand how the urban environment affects health outcomes and can produce more equitable health benefits. A key concern is the way in which the physical fabric of cities affects urban mobility and how this relates to health and wellbeing.
Built environmental design supportive of walking and cycling (‘active mobility’) could help to promote moderate physical activity as part of daily travel routines, delay biological ageing and age-related conditions and improve overall health and wellbeing.
In the Global South, however, the rapid growth in private motorization and the lack of value placed on walking and cycling means the association between environmental attributes and active mobility are more complex. This is having a significant impact on the urban poor and low-income groups who already engage in, and rely on, walking and cycling (and public transport) to meet their daily travel needs.
The trend in the Global North, meanwhile, particularly in countries like the UK, is towards a decrease in physical activity. This is associated with more widespread private car use, obesogenic environments and greater mechanisation in the home, workplace and public places.
The implementation of healthy urban mobility as part of the broader Healthy Cities concept, therefore, presents serious challenges in both the Global South and Global North and requires different approaches towards its realisation.