In today’s world where everyone’s always on a rush, it’s easy to overlook the day-to-day details around us, such as the sidewalks, streets, and gutters. For most people, these are merely blurs as they traverse along roads in their cars, or navigate their way on foot, mindful only of getting to their destination on time.
To urban planners like Leon Churchill, however, these details are their lifelines, and they try to look at the nooks and crannies of city streets from the viewpoints of everyone, including toddlers. Try to change your perspective to that of a toddler’s, and you will see your city in a brand new light. The sidewalks, streets, gutters, and even storm drains and manholes, become more significant, especially if you’re thinking of creating a safe environment for all ages.
"Cutesification" of Cities
Unlike adults, who walk by streets and sidewalks without closely observing their surroundings, children tend to be fascinated by everything that comes their way, be it a tree root or a couple of pebbles. With children as the focus of their planning efforts, some city planners designed changes aimed at giving kids the chance to engage in physical activity wherever they are. This has given birth to such innovations as swings on bus stops and etched hopscotch lines on sidewalks.
Some planners have also latched on to the idea and taken it to bring "fun" in city streets for all ages. It has become common to see more colors and art everywhere, even on manhole covers. This approach has been dubbed by some as the "cutesification" of urban design. Just like any idea that goes against traditional norms, however, this effort has its fair share of criticisms, with some pointing out that the "cutesies" are not what people really need.
A Reliable Metric on Walkable Streets
One thing that all city planners like Leon Churchill agree upon, however, is that the streets and sidewalks should be made safe for all, drivers and pedestrians included. Approaching urban development through the eyes of toddlers can be a reliable metric in creating safe, walkable sidewalks and streets. With children being among the most vulnerable pedestrians, along with the elderly and the disabled, planning a community through their eyes, needs, and habits can help set a stringent standard in the creation of a safe and engaging environment for everyone.
Now that everyone is in need of a more walkable community, planning from a toddler’s perspective can make a lot of sense. Learn more on what children can teach planners about urban development at nextcity.org/daily/entry/city-planning-kid-friendly-cities-families.