Amy Levner, a vice president at KaBOOM!, the U.S. nonprofit that works to provide community-designed play spaces for children living in poverty, said the narrative of child-friendly cities has intensified in the past year, and a recent report on the subject from London-based design firm Arup has furthered the conversation. “The fact that the work came out of a major, multinational firm is exciting,” she said. “It’s not just coming from academics or policymakers, so it’s reaching a different, broader audience.”
So what does designing a city around kids mean? The Arup report’s authors are clear that it’s not just about building more playgrounds, however important such spaces are and will continue to be. The report focuses on two main aspects of design: everyday freedoms and children’s infrastructure.
Everyday freedoms refer to children’s ability to travel safely on foot or bike and without an adult in their neighborhood—to school, to a rec center, to a park. The “popsicle test,” in which a child can walk from their home to a store, buy a popsicle, and return home before it melts, is one way to measure this ability. Children’s infrastructure means the network of spaces and streets that can make a city child-friendly and encourage these everyday freedoms.
How can your city become more livable? Make it walkable! Become a member of Strong Towns and register for a Conversation with Jeff Speck.
A Conversation With Jeff Speck
Jeff Speck is a nationally-recognized expert on building walk-friendly, people-oriented places. His book, Walkable City, is beloved by planners, leaders and residents of cities big and small; and his planning firm, Speck & Associates, works in communities across the country.
This exclusive webcast is available to all Strong Towns members. Become a member today and you will receive a registration link via email.
Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition has been invited to participate in the NJBWC Summit and receive Local Advocate of the Year Award!
And APCSC will host the first Jersey Shore Complete Streets Workshop sessions!
Our breakout sessions will focus on transportation topics that are common to shore towns: connecting transit to the beach, bike routes and pedestrian connections between towns, bike share, seasonal traffic issues (parking, speeding and congestion).
Register today for the 9th Annual NJ Bike & Walk Summit, which will be held on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at The Conference Center of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor.
NYC has adopted Vision Zero, started in Sweden, and now a global tool kit. NJ’s program “Toward Zero Deaths” has not been effective, although it implements some of the strategies of VZ.
NJBWC executive director, Cyndi Steiner: “Shooting for just a reduction in traffic deaths continues the current thinking that there is a certain number of traffic deaths that is an acceptable number,” she said. “To us, the only acceptable number is zero.”“
“Some pedestrian advocates said Vision Zero is a better alternative. Toward Zero Deaths has a goal to reduce deaths by 2.5 percent, which by 2030, is only a 30 percent drop in traffic fatalities, said Cyndi Steiner, New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition executive director.
“That is a far cry from NYC’s goal of zero deaths by 2024 and Philadelphia’s goal of zero deaths by 2030,” she said. “New Jersey needs a Vision Zero policy because the state continues to rank at the top or near the top in the nation in the percentage of road deaths that occur to pedestrians and bike riders.”
Superbowl car ads. They’re all pretty much the same, and it’s constant theme of car companies: Your car will make you feel younger, sexier, stronger, more in tune with the world around you…but the truth is driving your car will not make you feel anything much except stress while you navigate traffic (btw YOU are traffic), driving “defensively”, and trying to get to your destination as quickly as possible.
“The pitches have to register on an emotional level to hide the fact that, as Dan Savage wrote a few years ago, “Driving is just sitting on your ass.” So they show us breathtaking views of mountain ranges, not the everyday experience of sitting in traffic, listening to other people in cars honk their horns.”
“…how many people can say their SUV made them a more empathetic person?”
Asbury Park is not unique in trying to solve the parking dilemma–residents and visitors complain continually about the lack of availablility. Understanding it in a new way will help. Rethinking parking:
“…vehicle parking is so ubiquitous that it is generally invisible, like water is to fish. Most people have no idea of the economic, social and environmental costs caused by the pursuit of convenient parking. So, to put these impacts into perspective here are some fun facts that you can use to communicate the cost, waste and inequity of current parking planning practices.”
Parking requirements are the dark matter of the urban universe: they affect transport and land use in mysterious ways. These fun facts illustrate the costs and impacts of economically excessive parking supply.
WHAT DO CURRENT PARKING POLICIES INDICATE ABOUT COMMUNITY PRIORTIES?
Despite problems with homelessness and housing inaffordability, no communities have laws that guarantee free housing for people, but nearly all jurisdictions have laws that mandate abundant, and usually free housing for vehicles, in the form of unpriced on-street parking and off-street parking requirements in zoning codes. These policies conflict: the more parking spaces we require for residential development, the fewer housing units that can be built in a given area, and the less affordable housing will be.
Most wealthy nations have managed to reduce traffic deaths significantly in the past few decades, but the U.S. has not seen traffic deaths plunge at the same rate—and in recent years, they’re actually going back up. Overall, U.S.’s traffic deaths are much lower than they were in the 1970s, which experts often attribute to safety regulations like seatbelt laws.
But Jemilah Magnusson, global communications director for ITDP, has a different take on why deaths plummeted—those walkers simply became drivers. “The U.S. used to have a really high pedestrian death rate which we ‘solved’ by putting people in cars,” she says. “So now it’s even more hostile to pedestrians.”
Asbury Park’s streets are becoming places. Destinations where people of all ages in every demographic gather to spend time together, walking, riding bikes, shopping, talking, sharing food and drinks…building community!
“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”
– Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces
“Streets as Places is about Placemaking on one of the most important public spaces each community has – our streets. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. With community-based participation at its center, an effective Streets as Places process capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, and results in streets that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well being.”
Sound familiar? How are the sidewalks in your neighborhood? This may have been a light recent snow fall, but it’s still January and we could see much more before winter is over. Cities all over the US and beyond (Canada here) grapple with the same issue. We can learn from what other cities do.
“Getting around the city in winter is “frustrating and difficult at best” for people with mobility problems, said Sharon Giles, who sits on the Grand River Accessibility committee. “Your neighbour may have shovelled just fine, and the neighbour three doors down may have also done a good job, but the two homes in between have not done their duty and you are not able to safely get where you need to go.”
Small cities can learn from successes in large cities.
The Transit Village @inAsburyParkNJ can be designed to calm traffic and be walkable and bikeable. A true neighborhood district focuses on pedestrians getting around – walking and bicycling – and doesn’t just cater to cars and parking.
“Why is improving walking access to transit important? As our research has found, the easier it is for people to walk to transit, the more likely they are to use it in their daily life.
With this in mind, LA Metro developed their “First Last Mile Strategic Plan.” It’s a menu of street treatments that can be used by Metro and municipalities to improve walking and biking conditions near transit.”
Few transit agencies invest in street infrastructure around bus stops and stations. Historically, they’ve subsidized car trips to transit by constructing costly park and rides, but haven’t taken on the jurisdictional issues that might come when it comes to improving streets around stations for pedestrians and cyclists.”