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Child-friendly places improve economic performance of cities

Words: Laura Edgar
Child-friendly cities perform better economically / iStock-618426064

Ensuring that cities are child-friendly could help to retain a skilled workforce and improve their economic performance, a new report has claimed.

Cities Alive, by built environment consultancy Arup, says cities risk suffering a “hollowing-out effect” that would impact on economic and cultural life, leading to families moving away if they don’t address the needs of children.

Children being able to get around independently and the amount of time they spend playing outdoors, as well as their connection to nature, are noted as being strong indicators of how a city is performing for all people who live there.

“Perhaps uniquely, a child‐friendly approach has the potential to unite a range of progressive agendas – including health and well-being, sustainability, resilience and safety – and to act as a catalyst for urban innovation,” states the report.

Urban children face a number of challenges, including traffic and pollution, living in high-rise developments, crime, isolation and unequal access to the city.

Civic leaders, developers and designers are urged to do more than simply provide a playground, and look to examples from around the world to ensure that cities are child-friendly. One such development is Kings Cross Central, which “incorporated playful interventions as a means of urban regeneration and to create a fun and vibrant destination for all ages,” says Arup. This involved incorporating an arts programming, urban gardens and a temporary open-air swimming pond to generate outdoor activity.

In 2015, road traffic injury was the leading cause of death globally for those aged 10 to 19 years old. In South Korea, the School Zone Improvement Project aims to create safe routes between children’s homes and frequently used facilities.

Jerome Frost, director and global planning and cities leader at Arup, said: “This report highlights the opportunity to create healthier, more inclusive, resilient and competitive cities for people of all ages by taking a child-friendly approach to cities. We are at a critical moment in the evolution of cities and how we treat our children today is how we will be remembered in the future. Harnessing political will, testing interventions through pilots and being creative in using the evidence, resources and capabilities available will help us make better choices for child-friendly environments.”

Cities Alive can be found on the Arup website.

Image credit | iStock