- The National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Global Designing Cities Initiative (GDCI) unveiled its Designing Streets for Kids guidelines, a free resource that provides practical solutions for cities to create safer streets for children and their caregivers.
- The five design principles include: meeting basic safety and accessibility needs; designing for appropriate speeds; allocating space for people; integrating play and learning; and incorporating adjacent spaces.
- The Streets for Kids program is supported in part by Bloomberg Philanthropies and is a supplement to NACTO’s Global Street Design guide.
Traffic crashes are the main cause of death for young people ages 5-29, NACTO says, and air pollution stemming from congestion and vehicles is also responsible for killing 127,000 children under the age of five annually.
Those deaths are preventable and can be drastically reduced with street design that is conducive to children, according to NACTO.
Kid-friendly street designs can include a number of different solutions depending on community needs. In Detroit, for example, a red rubber surface resembling a racetrack was paved on a sidewalk for children to safely run and play along while waiting at a school bus stop.
In Amsterdam, a city block was transformed by removing travel lanes, parking spaces and sidewalk to create a play space plaza that included a slide, crawling tunnel, trampolines, water sprayers and a two-cycling lane.
And in Montreal, Canada, a pedestrian-only street was created with sidewalks, new landscaping, ample seating and play stations. Since the transformation, an average of 4,100 pedestrians use the space daily, and 85% of surveyed people said they now visit the street more often.
The Designing Streets for Kids guideline also provides best practices for cities to provide safe environments for children through tactics like designing for appropriate speed limits.
"You cannot put speed cameras… on every street, so how can we make sure that every street is safe by design?" NACTO Senior Program Associate Anna Siprikova said, noting there are technical solutions to lowering speed limits and preventing accidental crashes.
NACTO recently urged cities to shift from an "outdated" speed-limit planning system. Those recommendations have also come as some experts warn of the pandemic ushering in an "open season for reckless driving."
The two biggest obstacles to implementing kid-friendly streets in cities are often bureaucracy and budgets, according to Siprikova. Acquiring the necessary permits can sometimes take up to a year, Siprikova said, and the improvements made to streets can often be viewed as "luxury" changes that aren’t necessary.
The pandemic has helped speed up permitting processes in some places, however. Many cities have moved nearly overnight to open hundreds of miles of roads to pedestrians since people have been ordered to socially distance and remain home. But in some cities, governments have completely stopped processing any of those applications due to the pandemic, Siprikova said.
As many kids are stuck at home right now with restricted education opportunities, Siprikova said she hopes the guide will inspire cities to create a different kind of street.