Making school streets safer for children

Author: Global Designing Cities Initiative

The Global Designing Cities Initiative (GDCI)  is expanding its Streets for Kids program to more cities worldwide. This blog features their work in Istanbul, León, and Lima. It showcases how low-cost, relatively quick, and creative solutions can make streets safer for children and foster social life.

City streets in low-and middle-income countries are increasingly unsafe, polluted, noisy, grid-locked, and car-dominated spaces. Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for young people aged 5 to 29. A majority of these crashes occur close to schools.

Streets for Kids Programme

GDCI’s Streets for Kids programme aims to remake neighbourhood and school streets into more social, playful, environmentally friendly and safe spaces through innovative pilots which inspire city-wide action. Dull, grey and unsafe streets are transformed into safe and lively social spaces through street calming interventions like safe crossings, multi-use seating, shade, greenery and colourful paint, attracting children and adults alike.

Using the award-winning Designing Streets for Kids guide, the DIY reverse periscope, and various community engagement tools and methodologies, the program facilitators engaged with municipalities, transport and urban mobility departments, local NGOs and practitioners, schools, community associations, and students to create safe, vibrant and culturally relevant spaces and streets in diverse contexts. The examples below illustrate how school streets are being made safer, greener and more vibrant in three cities: Istanbul, León and Lima.

1. Istanbul, Türkiye

The Municipality of Maltepe in Istanbul worked with implementing partner Superpool to reclaim 700 m2 of street parking space outside a neighbourhood school. This intervention benefited 450 schoolchildren,  73 kindergarteners, pedestrians, and caregivers. Extended sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and chicanes were created to reduce vehicular speeds, improve walkability, and create safe play and social spaces.

  • Ariel image of streets before intervention © Pınar Gediközer/Superpool

Pre- and post-intervention analysis:

  • 55% reduction in speeding vehicles
  • 15% more pedestrians
  • 49% increase in people using the transformed public space
  • 89% of children now use protected infrastructure (compared to none before)

2. León, Mexico

The Municipality of León partnered with Colectivo Tomate to create an interim street transformation pilot, reclaiming 450 m2 of public space, benefitting nearly 1000 children. Design elements to improve safety and create opportunities for play and socialisation include colourful extended pavements with flexible and playful benches, planters, pedestrian crosswalks, and clear traffic signage enforcing a 20mph (30km/h) speed limit to slow down vehicles outside the school. Inspired by this intervention’s success, the municipality is planning a second street transformation.

Pre- and post-intervention analysis:

  • 82% reduction in vehicles exceeding 30km/h
  • 24% more pedestrians
  • 74% of caregivers now feel the street is safe for their child to play compared to 1% before the intervention
  • 89% of those surveyed would like to see similar street transformations in the city

3. Lima, Peru

The Municipality of Lima and its urban mobility department reclaimed 850 m2 of street space outside Andres Rosales Valencia school to ensure safe access to the school for children and staff. The school is located on a busy, vehicle-heavy, five-way intersection. The street outside the school was closed to vehicles and multi-use street furniture, planters, and colourful and playful street markings were used to make the space safe, comfortable, attractive and playful, benefiting 322 students, caregivers and staff. The city is proposing the pedestrianised street be included in the historic centre’s pedestrian network plan.

Pre- and post-intervention analysis shows:

  • 42% reduction in vehicles exceeding the speed limit
  • 107% increase in caregivers’ feeling of safety and a significant increase in caregivers’ likelihood of playing with their kids on the street
  • 95% noise reduction on the reclaimed street

All projects were co-funded by cities, NGO partners, and GDCI. Project costs ranged from USD 20k to USD 70k and took under a year to complete. Local authorities plan to make interventions permanent in all three cities and/or scale them up to other city neighbourhoods. The Streets for Kids program is a great example of how streets can be reimagined as public spaces for children and make neighbourhoods safer for children anywhere in the world.

Do you want to make roads safer for children in your city? Download the free Designing Streets for Kids guide available in Albanian, Bahasa Malaysia, English, French, Georgian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and Vietnamese.

About the Author

This blog is an adaptation of GDCI’s news article titled Scale and Sustainability: Highlights of the Streets for Kids 2023 Projects

The Public Spaces for Children series showcases ideas for action, innovation, programmes, policies and practices that make public spaces child-friendly. Read more of our blogs here.

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