Autonome mobility of children in our neighbourhoods

Today, it is not easy for children to run or bike around in their own neighbourhoods. Compared with other generations, kids nowadays play and move less in the streets because of the heavy traffic in our cities and towns. Although independent movement as a learning process is essential for a child’s development, it does not appear to be evident and safe to move independently.

The organization ‘Kind & Samenleving’ conducted research on children’s autonomous mobility, revealing its stratification. On the following website [ https://www.loslopendkind.org/], you will find the results of this interesting research showing the transportation behavior of different ages. For each age group, different dangers lurk in the public domain.

An important takeaway from the research is to learn to look at our environment from the eyes of a child. For example, it is important to provide adequate stopping opportunities during a bike ride with children. For them to participate sustainably and safely in traffic, these insights are essential to bringing into the mobility debate!

Do you have any good examples of streets in your neighbourhood that are especially well-designed, even for children?

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I don’t think UK streets are generally well designed for anyone, especially not children .

I’ve been learning about innovations in The Netherlands, such as continuous pavements/sidewalks and so on and am very jealous.

One thing I read recently really stood out for me on this (as a warning). An adult friend spent some time cycling around Oxford with some kids to see their issues, and two that came up that really hit home for me were:

  1. parking at junctions/corners is much more of a problem for children because their perspective is much lower, and they may well not be able to see above the vehicle to see if it is clear AND drivers may not be able to see the children approaching behind it. If we don’t consider visibility from a much lower angle, then we are not looking after our children.

  2. negotiating traffic, especially mixed modes, is a LOT more difficult for children. Adults who are walking or cycling, particularly if we are drivers ourselves, can make quick assumptions of what drivers in cars will do - when they might speed up/slow down, when they might be distracted by other traffic, or if they are likely to be aware of us. Children do not. They are always under stress in the street, or else unaware of dangers. If we make plans that have built-in assumptions of “negotiation” between road users, then we are failing our children.

Both of these have helped me see streets in new ways, and I would welcome ideas for making streets safer places where children can have more independence and autonomy

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