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Changing the model for a child-friendly transport planning

Studies show that children who are not allowed to travel independently have 35% less physical agility, 40% less physical balance, 15% less creativity and 47% less autonomy and endurance during work and the number of social contacts is less than 25% (Hüttenmoser, 1996).

The high volume of traffic has many negative mental and physical impacts on healthy development in infants, which for many years was underestimated. In the last decade the conditions for living and growing for children changed rapidly. The increase in motor vehicles has led not only to higher risks of child traffic accidents but also to other effects on children’s health, such as lack of physical activity, and the burden of noise and air pollution.

Motor vehicles has led to higher risks of child traffic accidents

Therefore a model shift is urgently needed in transport planning, which considers not only the built environment, but also the needs and the living environments of children. The participation of children is an important part of the required change, as well as the successful inter-sectoral collaboration between transport planners and other experts in the field of health, education, environment, planning and others.

International and national commitments such as the WHO Children´s Health and Environment Action Plan, the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child and EU guidelines on physical activity have each attempted to offset the impact of traffic on children; while, in Austria the climate programme, klimaaktiv mobil and the national children’s health strategy aims to create of a child-friendly approach to traffic policy. These initiatives are finally producing results, and there are positive effects for adults too.

To further help the move towards the new model in Austria, the Ministry of Environment has initiated the development of guidelines and regulations for child friendly traffic planning. These arose from a long-term working group of around 40 professionals from different sectors and included the production of corresponding guidance for the public, with sections on the special requirements of children in the public space from a pedagogical perspective, and the basic principles of child friendly transport planning.

To complement the initiative, a conference on child friendly mobility was held in 2015, with key speakers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland offering expert perspectives and examples of good practice on transport, planning, education, environment and health.

In 2016 a competition for cities and communities throughout Austria will begin, through a collaboration of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Families and Youth. Prizes will be awarded to those local communities and cities that have carried out the best measures for a child friendly environment.

Author: Petra Volkl

Photo Credit: photo’s by Umwelt-Bildungs-Zentrum Steiermark


Hüttenmoser, M, Kein schöner Land. Ein Vergleich städtischer und ländlicher Wohnumgebungen und ihre Bedeutung für den Alltag und die entwicklung der Kinder, Zürich 1996

The guidelines can be downloaded here

Author: Petra Voelkl

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