Promoting urban planning projects often relies on an inspiring narrative: what are we as a community trying to accomplish, and how do we want our neighborhoods to evolve? Few stories are as universal as building a better future for our children. But in urban design, it’s too often a tale untold.
A new research report focused on child-first urban planning, Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods, argues that designing for children can be the anchor and central theme animating a larger progressive urban agenda. Written by the international engineering, planning, and consulting firm Arup, the report offers numerous case studies, sobering statistics—such as the fact that 1 billion children live in urban settings right now—and visions for tackling what they see as the main hurdles to more youth-friendly metropolises: traffic and pollution, high-rise living and sprawl, crime, isolation and intolerance, and unequal, inadequate access to the city’s benefits.
Most importantly, it suggests a child-friendly lens can help leaders, planners, and designers envision a better city for everyone, one that offers a wealth of social benefits (society gains $8 in benefits for every $1 spent on early play-based education, according to a University College London study).
“Perhaps uniquely, a child‐friendly approach has the potential to unite a range of progressive agendas—including health and wellbeing, sustainability, resilience and safety—and to act as a catalyst for urban innovation,” the report notes.
Many sweeping, and optimistic, modern movements to change metro design focused on children. From the Garden City movement to the post-war suburban boom, updated living environments have often been sold with a promise of healthier living environments for our kids.
But today, urban environmental and health issues are increasingly on the rise, a crises when experts believe that by 2030, 60 percent of all city dwellers will be under the age of 18. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of overweight children globally will skyrocket to 70 million by 2025, from 41 million in 2016, and rates of childhood mental health problems, triggered by the stress of urban life, is also on the rise.
To reverse these trends, Cities Alive proposes a combination of parks, play, equitable planning, and making nature more prevalent. Cars, specifically the amount of real estate given over to roads and vehicles, presents a big problem. This infrastructure often form borders between children and freer access to playspaces, and limits other mobility options.
This was originally published by Curbed.