Online maps improve active travel for children and families

Children’s mobility is rapidly declining due to poor urban planning and other factors, even though there is overwhelming evidence that active children are healthier. To address this, Mobile 21, the Belgian organisation for sustainable mobility, have introduced interactive online maps to assist families in finding active routes and child-friendly destinations within their towns and cities.

Demographic trends show that road safety and unaffordable housing are the principal reasons why families move out of the city. It has been widely suggested that modern modes of transport, particularly cars, create health hazards for children. What makes the situation worse is that the urban infrastructure is not conducive to walking: parents drive their children everywhere because schools and other destinations have become too distant for children to cycle.

Creating cities around citizen’s needs

“Families make cities vibrant and happy places to live in. However, increasing car traffic and poor urban planning makes it very hard for families to really enjoy city life. Since families are worried about road safety and the risk of accidents, their children often feel unsafe to walk or cycle in the city,” said Lies Lambert, Project Leader from Mobiel 21, vzm specializing in sustainable mobility programs.

“This is where planners play a key role in helping to create child friendly cities and communities that can contribute positively to the development of a child’s, happiness and wellbeing,” she added.

Although many cities across the globe have taken various measures towards becoming more child-friendly, research findings suggest that, during the last 50 years, urban infrastructure has focused mainly on car traffic. The human dimension of city planning has been largely neglected.

“The future European city should be designed from people’s perspective. We need healthy, safe and child-friendly communities, which encourage walking and cycling. They also need to become more accessible to all citizens, including children, by promoting sustainable transport and independent mobility,” commented Lambert.

Kids’ City Trips campaign

Kids’ City Trips is a campaign aimed at families with children up to 6 years old, but also for older children. The campaign introduces an interactive online map, which has been developed to assist families to find and explore family-oriented activities and safe routes in a city.

“Using this type of tool we help children and families to search for kid-friendly places. It’s a safe, fun and cheap alternative for spending a day out with children. It helps parents to find a spot that best suits their kids’ interests and needs. Very often, a car is not needed as many of the places are just round the corner.

What is also great, is that it immediately gives them the option to recommend and include tips and reviews, which is very useful information for local authorities, who can then directly incorporate this feedback into their plans” explained Lambert. The feedback can be passed onto transport departments, who are able to create more sustainable and child-friendly communities based on the feedback given. What’s more, it encourages families and children to walk or cycle, which leads to less congestion in the city,” concluded Lambert.

Author: Marketa Vesela

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