In order to make cities sustainable, successful, and healthy, they must be child friendly, according to a new report by Arup, the built environment specialists. Holly Smith, our Policy & Research Assistant, gives a rundown of the report, and tells us a bit about what Living Streets is doing to help.
We know that living in a healthy city is vital for children’s wellbeing and development. The bad news is that children are particularly affected by the challenges of modern urban life, from air pollution and road safety, to physical inactivity and obesity. Air pollution can stunt the growth of children’s lungs, and increase the likelihood of developing asthma. Parents feeling safe enough to let their child travel and play outside unsupervised – independent mobility – is crucial for children’s social development. And, in England, fewer than 1 in 5 children aged 5-15 are meeting recommended levels of physical activity.
But, the good news is that we know cities can lead the way in tackling these problems. Arup has identified a number of practical steps that city leaders and urban designers can take to put children’s needs at the centre of cities. One is to give people walking the priority in our streets by removing or calming traffic to create a safe environment for street play, socialising and everyday walking.
60% of the world’s urban population is set to be under 18 by 2030. It will only become more important for our cities to be healthy, safe, and friendly for all ages.
Here at Living Streets, we believe that reducing the default speed limit to 20mph on streets where people live, work, shop and play is a key step in putting people first. That’s why we are calling for more 20mph streets as part of our Walking Cities campaign. And it’s great that over 20 urban authorities in the UK have adopted 20mph default speed limits.
Arup also recognised the potential benefits of creating ‘play streets’ for children, families, and communities. Play streets are temporarily or permanently closed to traffic to help bring communities together, reduce pollution, and enable children to play and develop their independent mobility skills in a safe environment. Street closures can be particularly important near schools, by making it safer, easier and more enjoyable to walk to school.
We have worked with Local Authorities across the country to make school streets safer for children. In Camden, we supported the council to close the street outside one of the most central schools in London, St Joseph’s Primary, during the morning and afternoon school run. People saw the overall benefits to the safety of the pupils and the low impact of the road closure on other users.
So, it is clear that there are a number of ways that we can make cities healthier for children. But, the benefits of child friendly cities extend to all of us. Making walking routes to school safer for children, for example by having enough pedestrian crossings, makes cities more walkable and accessible for everyone. Creating attractive public space where children and families want to spend time can increase footfall and revenue for local businesses. And making it safer and easier for people of all ages and abilities to walk, cycle, and use public transport can help tackle air pollution, one of the biggest challenges of our time.
According to Arup, over half of the world’s urban population is set to be under 18 by 2030. This means that it will only become more important for our cities to be healthy, safe, and friendly for all ages.
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