Urban Traffic Calming and Health Inequalities: Effects and Implications for Practice

This document is the final one in a series of five documents based on a literature review published in 2011. The four previous documents compared the effects of two approaches to urban traffic calming – the black-spots approach and the area-wide approach – on four determinants of health: road safety, air quality, environmental noise and active transportation. In this document, we will examine the effects of these same two approaches (described below) on health inequalities. This will enable us to identify interventions that can effectively improve population health, overall, while also reducing health inequalities. Such interventions will be distinguished from those which act on only one or the other of these dimensions.

We will begin with a brief discussion of how health inequalities are conceptualized, followed by a few Canadian examples of health inequalities associated with, among other things, past and current transportation policies. This will be followed by a summary of the results of studies having evaluated the two approaches to traffic calming, focusing on the effects of these two approaches on various health inequalities. We will weigh the implications of these results for public health actors and, finally, present an analysis grid that can help public health actors to anticipate the effects of traffic-calming interventions on health inequalities.

To consult the comprehensive version of the literature review, please see our document entitled Urban Traffic Calming and Health: A Literature Review, available at:

Our definition of “traffic calming” is presented in the introduction to our literature review, and its historical origins are detailed in our document entitled Traffic Calming: An Equivocal Concept, available at:

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