NACTO’s Global Designing Cities Initiative Launches Streets for Kids Program

May 14, 2018
The National Association of City Transportation Official’s Global Designing Cities Initiative has announced the launch of Streets for Kids, a multi-year program to develop new technical guidance.

The National Association of City Transportation Official’s Global Designing Cities Initiative has announced the launch of Streets for Kids, a multi-year program to develop new technical guidance and advance street designs that create safe public spaces for kids of all ages to learn, play, and move around a city. The program is made possible thanks to generous support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Botnar Foundation, and the FIA Foundation.

Streets are dangerous places for kids: 500 children die each day in road crashes in cities around the world. Daily activities like commuting to school, running errands, or otherwise travelling around a city are often unpleasant and stressful, with children and their caretakers exposed to speeding traffic, hazardous obstacles on sidewalks that force them to walk on the roadbed, and unhealthy vehicle pollution, all negatively impacting their physical and mental wellbeing. Street designs that consider the needs of children and their caregivers have been shown to improve road safety and quality of life. City agencies are looking for guidance on strategies to reclaim their streets and make them safer, more comfortable, and more inspiring for children.

Through the Streets for Kids program, NACTO-GDCI will develop child-focused design guidance to inspire leaders, inform practitioners, and empower communities to consider the city from the eyes of a child. This new guidance will supplement the Global Street Design Guide, which was published in 2016 and set a new global standard for designing urban streets that prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. To date, the Global Street Design Guide has been endorsed by 37 cities and 25 organizations worldwide.

The Streets for Kids guidance will capture international best practices in designing streets and public spaces that are safe and appealing to children from their earliest days. The supplement will highlight strategies, programs, and policies that cities around the world have used to design spaces that enable children to utilize cities’ most abundant public asset – streets. Finally, the guidance will highlight tactics for engaging children in the design process, an often-overlooked approach that can dramatically transform how streets are designed and used.

In the second phase of the program, NACTO-GDCI will work directly with practitioners to reimagine and redesign their streets to support comfortable, healthy, and inspiring environments for all children. Using guidance and specifications from the Streets for Kids supplement, NACTO-GDCI will work directly with select international cities to design and implement demonstration projects.

“The urban street conditions we’ve created for the majority of children around the world are unforgivable,” said Skye Duncan, director of the NACTO Global Designing Cities Initiative. “It’s inexcusable for us to not take action, and the Streets for Kids program will create a clear set of guidelines for designing streets that put safety, environmental health, and social environments at the forefront of how we design our cities for our most vulnerable users.”

"We are excited this work is expanding to focus on improving street designs to ensure the health, safety, and quality of life of our most vulnerable road users,” said Dr Kelly Henning of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Children should not risk their lives crossing the street to school or breathe in pollution while stuck in traffic. The Streets for Kids design guide will lead to more equitable outcomes for the next generation."

“Recuperating streets as vibrant, safe, and inclusive public spaces can make a positive difference to raise young children,” said Cecilia Vaca Jones, program director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation. “This guide will allow urban practitioners to learn and apply practical ways to work towards this goal. If we can make babies, toddlers, and their caregivers feel comfortable in public space, it’s a good indicator that other residents will too.”

“In communities across the world there is a growing appetite for healthy streets where children can walk, cycle, play, meet friends and... be children,” said Saul Billingsley, executive director of the FIA Foundation. “Our Child Health Initiative partners use demonstration projects to advocate for safe, child friendly urban design and to show that cost-effective solutions are readily available. We’re delighted to expand this approach by working with NACTO’s Global Designing Cities Initiative to deliver Streets for Kids.” 

“A city that enables children and youth to live safely in a clean environment is a city worth living in for all,” said Susanna Hausmann Meula, chief program officer of the Botnar Foundation. “How should such a city be designed? By listening carefully to what kids have to say. We must move from seeing our children as ‘beneficiaries’ toward engaging them as active citizens with valid opinions. New technologies together with child-centred approaches provide excellent opportunities to include their voices in the design process. The Streets for Kids supplement will help us transform cities globally into liveable and enjoyable urban spaces for all.”