I have been aware of Rotterdam’s child-friendly cities initiatives for at least ten years. It is the most ambitious I know, with the biggest budgets and the clearest focus. I have visited projects in 2014 and 2017, and have been impressed by what I saw.
So I was excited to be back in the city last month as part of my Churchill Fellowship travels, and eager hear more of the city’s story. And I quickly learnt one thing: Rotterdam’s push to become more child-friendly is deeply linked to its history, economy, demographics and built form.
Posted in Child-friendliness, Outdoor play, Public policy, Public space, Urban planning
Tagged Brent Toderian, child-friendly cities, child-friendly urban planning, Netherlands, Rotterdam, Urban planning, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
A new report from planning and built environment firm Arup argues that children should be central to good urban planning and design around the world.
Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods takes its cue from the oft-quoted maxim of Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa that the child is an indicator species for cities. Part of Arup’s Cities Alive series of publications, it shows that child-friendly urban planning is about much more than providing playgrounds. Rather, it is part and parcel of making cities more livable, sustainable and successful for all citizens. Continue reading
Posted in Child-friendliness, Outdoor play, Public policy, Public space, Urban planning, Urbanism
Tagged Arup, child-friendly cities, child-friendly urban planning, Marketta Kyttä, public policy, public space, transport, urban design, Urban planning
Calgary is the Canadian big city that looks and feels most like many US cities: sprawling, ever-expanding, and hugely car-centred. The very idea that the built form of the city could be great for children is likely to prompt a raised eyebrow from urban planners, if not outright derision.
I have just spent a week in the city, at the International Play Association conference, and then interviewing people and visiting sites as part of my Churchill Fellowship project looking at child-friendly urban planning. And my top-of-the-head response is that those urbanists would not be far wrong. But could this be about to change?
I’ll come back to that later. First, a thumbnail sketch of the city’s built form. Three broad types of residential neighbourhood form a classic urban typology for the city.
I was in Bilbao a few weekends ago and spent several evenings in Plaza Nueva, a square in the old town and a popular weekend meeting place for local people. While grown-ups enjoyed drinks and tapas (or to use the Basque term, pintxos) in bars under the elegant colonnades, the central area was humming with children playing. Ball games, scooter races, chalk-picture-drawing, heely tricks (remember Heelys?) and chit-chat were just some of what was in the mix.
Image from parkstarter.com
Have you ever looked at a piece of derelict land in your area and thought “that could make a nice spot for a park” – and then felt your spirit fall as it sits boarded up for years, or worse still, gets turned into a temporary car park? Manchester resident Sam Easterby-Smith has, and has decided to do something about it. He has created Parkstarter: a crowd-funded, pop-up park creation scheme. And he wants to try it out in his home city.
Rotterdam is one the few big cities that has taken seriously the goal of becoming more child-friendly. Its ambitious planning policies have been debated in the National Assembly for Wales (see this web page and the links from it for some English-language material). Its public space improvement projects have been lauded at international conferences (indeed in 2008 it hosted Child in the City, a leading global cross-disciplinary event). What is more, unlike some other Child-Friendly City initiatives, it focuses on hard outcomes that make a real difference in children’s lives – better parks, improved walking and cycling networks, wider pavements – and not just on participation processes that, however well-intentioned, may end up being idle wheels. I have visited Rotterdam and seen the impressive results at first-hand, and have promoted the city’s work in presentations. Yet according to one scholar, the city’s progressive stance hides a more sinister goal: the marginalisation and relocation of poor families.