Children Reclaim the Streets

Article by Rachael Swynnerton, featured in Islington Gazette, 22nd December 2022

We all want what’s best for the children in our lives. At Christmas, despite the current cost of living crisis, we all do our best to spoil children with toys and games. But what about something simpler and cheaper? What children need, and want, is the freedom to play in the street. A place to meet friends, walk and cycle outside their home and school whilst breathing clean air and feeling safe.

Since the second world war, children’s freedom to roam has rapidly diminished as motor vehicles have dominated our streets, resulting in a genuine threat to children’s health and safety.

However, across the world, children are re-emerging in our urban streets thanks to campaigners who have argued children should not be consigned to indoor, sedentary lifestyles or have to breathe in toxic air pollution or cross dangerous roads.  Instead, urban planning should put children centre-stage, take their views and experiences seriously, and include clear benefits for them, such as increased opportunities to play and explore.

In Islington, the council are making improvements with their People Friendly Streets scheme, which supports School Streets, playstreets, greening and Liveable Neighbourhoods (LNs). Research from Imperial College shows there are improvements in air quality on roads within Islington LNs and on boundary roads as a result. The Council have made a good start, but the scheme needs to be rolled out further and faster across the borough. Take a walk where you live. Is it pleasant for a child? If not, speak to your local councillor with some positive ideas and suggestions.

 “Join our walks and see the streets through children’s eyes, you’ll be amazed by what you will find. ”

Rachael Swynnerton, co-founder of I Spy Family Walks

Islington Clean Air Parents and Footways have been delighted to share the benefits of walking with families and young children with our very popular Family Friendly I Spy walks. We’ve been celebrating Islington’s new LNs and precious green spaces. It’s been wonderful to see children’s natural energy and curiosity allowed to flourish in streets that are child-friendly.

Join our Islington Clean Air Parents mailing list to find out about our next Family Friendly I Spy walk. Come and see for yourself how Islington is already being transformed with safer, healthier more attractive streets. Now that really is something to celebrate in 2023.

Source: Urban Playground, by Tim Gill

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