An Interview With Living Streets

May is National Walking Month in the UK and there couldn’t be a better time to keep fit than to enjoy walking and doing those 10,000 steps in the Spring sunshine, with our fitbits synchronised.  In fact, the Fitbit has become so popular over the last year or so and closing those “circles” or getting the 10,000 steps fireworks  a day can become rather addictive.  And what a good addiction to have!  Living Streets is a UK charity championing everyday walking and I was lucky enough to interview Tanya Braun from the charity about walking …. welcome Tanya!

Hi! I’m Tanya Braun and I’m the media and communications manager at Living Streets which means I’m in charge of promoting walking, why it’s great and how we can help people do more of it!

Living Streets is a UK charity championing everyday walking. When was the charity founded? What are the aims of the charity?

We were first set up back in 1929 when we were known as the Pedestrians’ Association. In the early days our campaigning led to the UK’s first zebra crossing and the introduction of speed limits. Today we face new challenges, but our work is as important as ever.We want to create a walking nation, free from congested roads and pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illness and social isolation and making walking the natural choice. We believe that a walking nation means progress for everyone. Our ambition is to get people of all generations to enjoy the benefits that this simple act brings and to ensure all our streets are fit for walking.

May is National Walking Month and Living Streets are urging the public to “Try20” – encouraging people to walk 20 minutes every day throughout May & to observe the big differences small steps can make. What are the those differences?

Physical activity is important to stay healthy, and walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get active, it’s also really easy to fit into our everyday lives – walking to the shops, skipping a stop on public transport or taking a lunchtime walk. Walking helps to prevent weight gain; chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer; and has been shown to reduce depression. Plus with more people walking their short everyday journeys, there are fewer cars on our roads which reduces congestion and harmful levels of air pollution. We first ran Try20 for National Walking Month in 2016, over 7000 people pledged to take part and we had stories back of people feeling fitter, losing weight, saving money and seeing more people – lots of big differences from small steps!

There is walking and walking! Solid quick walking obviously would increase fitness but what benefits would walking on the school run reap?

The Chief Medical Officer recommends that adults are active for 150 minutes per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, to stay healthy. Many people don’t realise that walking counts and so choosing to walk some – or all – of the way to school is an easy way to get these minutes adding up. It doesn’t have to be a race; to make the most of the health benefits of walking, we should be walking at a speed at which our breathing rate and heartbeat increases but we can still carry on a conversation – perfect walk to school pace.

For 2017 Living Streets have commissioned an extensive survey to find the best cities for walking judged on a range of criteria, including safety, air pollution and street clutter. Has a winner been announced yet? If not, who is in the running?

In the running are the top 10 largest UK cities by population: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, London, Liverpool and Sheffield. We’ll be announcing the winner in May so watch this space!

When I was in Rome I walked everywhere in the city centre – it is a compact city. For UK, I was quite impressed with Bath – I walked everywhere there too, mainly because the traffic jams were horrendous and it was quicker to walk to my destination than take the bus! Which cities inside & outside of the UK do you think are pretty walkable?

I always like an excuse to take a trip to our Edinburgh office because it’s so easy to get around there on foot and the views are amazing when you do. The public transport links are great and they’ve recently introduced 20mph limits in built up areas so it all feels a lot safer – hiring a car when I’m up there never has to cross my mind! Melbourne in Australia has been classed as one of the world’s most liveable cities. They’ve had a ‘Local Connectivity Plan’ since 2014 which aims to build a network of neighbourhoods with access to social, leisure and retail facilities within a 20 minute walk of people’s home. I’ve not been myself but my colleague has and she loved how easy it was to get around on foot and how accessible everything was. I was lucky enough to hear Janette Sadik-Khan speak recently, she was New York City’s transportation commissioner and oversaw some historic changes to the city’s streets to make them more people-friendly, including closing Broadway to cars in Times Square. There’s lots of great stuff going on around the world which we can learn from to help us put people before vehicles in our cities.

Although the whole of May is dedicated to walking, which key events will be held to help fundraise for future walking projects etc?

Tuesday 16th May is Happy Shoesday! On the Tuesday of Walk to School Week in May each year, primary school pupils, parents and teachers across the country raise money for our walking projects, by wearing their happy shoes and donating £1. Shiny, decorated, colourful, cartoon, gorilla feet – whatever brings that smile on their walk to school. We’re more than happy for anyone to take part and join in on social media #HappyShoesday – I’ll certainly be wearing my Happy Shoes to work! You can find out how to join the fun on our website:

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing when off for your 20 minute walk?

Lots of people say they can be put off walking by the weather but I always say, it’s not about the weather; it’s about what you wear! So, if rain is forecast I make sure I’m prepared and it’ll usually be a pair of boots – a simple pair of black leather boots, normally.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

For the High Street, I love Zara – and I’m a bit of an asos-fiend. The great thing about being based in East London is that on my way to the station, I pass a range of independent shops where I can always pick up something a bit different.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Jimmy Choos – if/when I become a millionaire! Until then, the nicer weather is as much of an excuse as I need to pick up a few new bits when I get inspired. I’ve got a couple of friends’ weddings coming up so I’m on the look-out for some nice dresses.

Boots or Shoes?

I definitely own more boots so it’ll have to be boots.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Living Streets & National Walking Month.
Follow us on Twitter @livingstreets or join in the conversation with #Try20

Thanks Tanya for the great tips to get everybody motivated and walking, wherever you are in the world!  I do love walking around the seawall that surrounds my village although it is a walk I don’t really do often enough – my husband puts me to shame as he does the 5+ mile walk on a daily basis! Dear readers, do you love walking? Have you got any favourite walking spots? Do share your views, I’d love to know.

Linda x

All main photos are published with kind permission from Living Streets. The Fitbit pin picture was taken by myself.

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