Do you think your city is a hostile and chaotic place to live? Imagine if you were just a kid walking or biking your city. Would you survive? In most cities –if not all- this answer would be negative, unfortunately.
Today with more than 50% of the population living in cities most of the people grow, learn and experience life in the urban world. The way this experience happens can determine the places you go, the way you move and how you interact with other people.
If you were born in Amsterdam, Houten or Copenhagen biking would be just the way you move in the city without giving it much thought. In Houten, Netherlands they do the unthinkable by giving a 6 year old the liberty to bike alone to school. How crazy is that?
Well not that crazy when you have designed the city to make biking for a 6-year-old safe. Not crazy when your parents, your neighbors and your community bike. Kids do what adults do. If you bike they bike. If you use a car they will like to have a car.
In Copenhagen people bike because its fast and easy (61%), healthy (19%), cheaper (6%), and it saves the environment ( only 1%). So how can we “Copenhagenize” our cities?
These “cities of dreams” were once in the same situation as developing cities. In the 60s and 70s, cars and highways started to invade them. But there was a group of children and citizens that started a revolution to give back the space to people.
If we want to recreate cities for children we need collective efforts not only from citizens but also governments. To do so governments have to start acting and thinking for the next generations and not for the next elections. This starts by fostering spaces that are safe and creative for the young inhabitants of the urban world. If children grow by experiencing biking and walking the city we will save a lot of efforts in the future and foster a sustainable, healthy and dynamic society.
In Bogotá the municipality recently started a program called “Al Colegio en Bici” –“Biking to school” that goes towards this ideal of leaning through experience. With 4.300 bikes the municipality is guiding kids to schools. If this campaign is successful these children won’t think about buying a car but in mobilizing to build more bike paths and improve cyclist safety.
We, citizens, also have to be part of the change by setting an example in the way we move and live the city. We have to pressure governments, participate, vote and mobilize communities.
If you are thinking about waiting for a change to materialize, it will probably never happen and you will leave this world without making a difference. You must act and foster the change you want to see in your city. Don’t do it for your community or yourself do it for your kids and the next generations. If we make the city as safe as a playground, I am sure that we will end up making a better city for all.
How can we start? 12 ways to make cities more child-friendly
by Juan Manuel Restrepo – twitter: @juanmrestrepo