To keep children safe from vehicle accidents, cities need to develop more green space, build protected infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, keep speed limits low, close off some streets to cars entirely, and implement clean air initiatives. Thats the argument of a recent article in TheCityFix, a website covering urban issues in the US and around the world.
As many as 500 children die in car crashes each day, with magnitudes more suffering the long-term consequences of the trauma that results from nonfatal car accidents. TheCityFix argues that in order to become more “child-friendly, cities need to take bold, holistic public policy approaches that prioritize the needs of children.
By developing accessible urban green spaces, the column suggests, cities can provide opportunities for youngsters to improve their mental and physical health, which will help reduce their stress and improve their performance at school. Green spaces will have the added benefit of improving cities’ air quality. As the article notes, air pollution can wreak havoc on children’s neurological development, and vehicle exhaust poses a particular threat given their height: “The World Health Organization reports almost 1 in 10 deaths from air pollution are children under five years old, and 98% of children under five in low- and middle-income countries are breathing PM2.5 levels above safe levels,” according to the article. If cities develop clean air zones, however, they can improve air quality around schools and residential areas with regulations that put limits on more polluting vehicles, encourage cleaner forms of transit, and dis-incentivize idling in key regions.
Cities can also protect children by developing protected infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, especially around high-use areas like schools and parks. Cities in the US can follow the lead of cities like Rohtak, in Indian, where “tactical urbanism tools like paints, barricades and chalk have created refuge islands and other safe pedestrian infrastructure.” As a result of these efforts, the city has reduced the distance people have to traverse when crossing the street, and also reduced the turning speed of cars traveling in the city.
A related measure is the reducton of speed limits. Per the article: “As the speed of a vehicle increases, the driver’s field of vision narrows, making it harder for them to see small children or react to sudden events, like a child running into the street.” Cities can help mitigate these risks by establishing low-speed zones—like the one in the Tunjuelito District of Bogotá, Colombia, where authorities responded to high traffic incidents in one area by reducing its speed limit to 30 kilometers per hour—and “traffic calming measures” like reflective tape and cones to help drivers see better.
For more information about measures cities can take to protect children from car accidents, check out TheCityFix’s article here.