Friday, 27 September 2019

Safe Routes to School at City Hall

On Monday 16th September, a 'Safe Routes to School' seminar was held at London's City Hall. Hosted by Caroline Russell, Green Assembly Member and member of the transport committee at the Greater London Authority, it brought together campaigners and policy makers hoping to learn more about how to make people-friendly streets.

With the Mayor of London's Child Obesity Taskforce publishing their ‘Ten Ambitions for London’ at the start of September, the term 'Safe Routes to School' is appearing more and more frequently in discussions around how to ensure all children in London grow up in communities that enable them to live healthy, active lives. This means safe spaces to play are as important as safe active travel corridors.

And this was indeed the theme of the evening: child friendly public spaces. Caroline opened the evening with a presentation on parklets and school streets as part of the launch of her ‘Reclaiming our Roads briefing and Prof. Peter Kraftl and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill of the University of Birmingham presented on their research into the walking habits of children and young people. 

Interestingly, they highlighted the fact that adults highlight independent mobility as the ‘gold star’ of a safe active travel community, yet the participants involved viewed walking entirely differently, turning it into one of their most important social activities and described ‘as intense, loved, vivid, vital, playful, social experiences .. central to friendships. They spoke of how children often felt they were ‘moved on’ from place to place meaning the journey - and what children did as they travelled - was as important as the destination.

With Ms Allison Dutoit of Gehl Architects also speaking of the need for streets that invite us to linger and hang-around, to socialise and play, I was reminded of the recent comments by Jenni Wiggle (Senior Director at Living Streets) quoted in the Department for Transport’s press release regarding the changes for the guidance around road closures for street play, where she pointed out how transformative creating traffic free spaces can be, as they mean when “children can enjoy being more active and sociable, our streets transform into cleaner, safer and more welcoming places for people of all ages.”

We should therefore truly celebrate the number of schools in and around Dulwich that have opened the new term with play streets and even new school streets programmes in place, whilst also reminding all members to look out for the workshops and sessions taking place as part of the 'Our Healthy Streets' consultation so we can keep working towards 'streets for people'.

This event was kindly supported by a donation from the Dulwich Society.