Idea for Action
Safe, playful walking routes for caregivers and young children
Idea for Action Summary
Walking can be an equaliser, requiring neither car ownership nor access to public transport.
In many cities across the world it is the only reliable and affordable travel mode. Walking is also important for healthy child development, enabling exploration, play, stimulation and social contact, and contributes to the physical and mental well-being of parents and other caregivers. Read more about the benefits of walking for young children and caregivers. Walking also multiplies the opportunity for social interactions on an everyday basis, which in turns contributes to well-being. Walkable cities are also good for the local economy.
City planners and designers can encourage walking by ensuring that:
- destinations are within a 15-minute walk. Childcare, healthcare, parks, healthy food sources, schools and jobs should ideally lie within a 15-minute walk of one another – and preferably of all residential neighbourhoods. This means prioritising smaller and more widely distributed services, as well as the co-location of services.
- caregivers feel safe to walk. This means consistent lighting during evenings, a connected grid of footpaths, frequent crossings with minimal waiting times and traffic protection buffers. It means streets with low speed limits and intersections designed to minimise the speed of turning vehicles and the crossing distance for pedestrians. Sidewalks should have dropped kerbs and be wide enough to allow for two-way pedestrian traffic, including strollers. Sidewalks should also feature areas separated from pedestrian flow where caregivers can stop to attend the needs of a baby or toddler. Greenery should be prominent, providing shade from the sun. Caregivers should feel safe from crime and harassment. Ideally, air quality would be monitored and maintained at acceptable levels along busy routes. Learn more about safe street design for children.
- routes are destinations too. Sidewalks offering opportunities to play and explore, and places to rest, support caregiver well-being and behaviours conducive to improved child development.