Cars, Kids, and a Safer Environment Through Planning

Urban areas are filled with cars, and this creates an unsafe environment for children. This commentary argues that officials need to regain their faith in the power of planning to address the issue.
September 25, 2008, 2pm PDT | Nate Berg
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"Researchers at the University of the West of England have found that people who live in busy roads have fewer friends and acquaintances nearby, and feel worse about their neighbourhoods, than those in socio-economically similar but less traffic-filled streets. As John Vidal reported in last Friday's Guardian, the consequences could be far-reaching, given the links between neighbourliness and positive outcomes in many areas of people's lives."

"Traffic-filled streets are a double whammy for children. Road danger is a direct and lethal threat, and a realistic fear for parents, especially in the UK, which has a poor record on child pedestrian casualties compared to most other European countries. But car dependence also impoverishes children's lives, severing their links with the people and places around them."

"The point about traffic is that it is one area of public policy where the politicians have direct access to the key levers of change, through the planning system. Yet we have lost faith in the very idea that planning is a good way to tackle complex social problems. As a result, government policies are vague and wishy-washy at best, and local authorities don't have the political will to challenge the status quo. As a result, children are left exposed to the brutal market forces of individual adult choices."

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Published on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 in Guardian
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