Health and sustainable development

Walking and cycling

Brother and sister astride bicycles in Kimberly, Northern Cape, South Africa
Brother and sister astride bicycles in Kimberly, Northern Cape, South Africa
Nic Grobler for the Bicycle Portraits project

Lack of physical activity is linked to over 3 million deaths per year globally. Inclusion and improvement in the quality of pedestrian and bicycle paths encourages people to walk and cycle, thereby promoting a healthy lifestyle. Other interventions targeting the built environment have been shown to enhance the appeal of physically active forms of transport.

Examples include:

  • improvements in urban aesthetic features and attractiveness;
  • decreased travel time between neighbourhoods;
  • access to green and recreational spaces;
  • good lighting; and
  • road safety.

Safe infrastructure for walking and cycling is also a pathway for achieving greater health equity. For the poorest urban sector who often cannot afford private vehicles, walking and cycling can provide a form of transport while reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, and even death. Accordingly, improved active transport is not only healthy; it is also equitable and cost-effective.