Ban Private Cars in London)
Posted by vreadhead 25.09.17
We used to make space for designated play streets in London. Unfortunately these have disappeared as cars have made inroads into our most precious of public space:
‘London authorities recognised the value of children being able to play safely in their neighbourhoods in 1938 when they passed legislation preventing traffic from entering designated roads for certain periods of time. The popularity of play streets then spread throughout the capital until the popularisation of car ownership in the 1950’s and 1960’s.’
Common Law sets out the duty of Councils to protect people when creating, designing or maintaining highways. Discriminating against Children, inadvertently or knowingly is a breach of that duty of care.
Cars have assumed and consumed children’s space more than any other group. Children’s ability to travel independently in their local environment has been significantly impeded by infrastructure design that is dangerous and intimidating. Speeding, aggressive motor vehicles, parked cars and shared space bring specific dangers for Children.
However this was not always the case. In Islington I have met many older people in their seventies who cycled independently across London and beyond as 11 year olds. One gentleman described cycling to Southend and back as a twelve year old. We infantalize older children by restricting their accessibility to safe, independent active travel.
Outdoor activity is a crucial component in the growth and development of the child’s brain, body and intellect
The importance of outdoor activity cannot be overstated; instead of sitting on a couch watching cartoons, children learn how to ride a bike, roller skate, kick about a ball.
Physical activity develops social, emotional and cognitive competencies. It is also essential for healthy bone development and exposes children to natural vitamin D, sunlight.
Children acquire knowledge experientially through play, experimentation, exploration and discovery. Learning by doing creates more neural networks in the brain and throughout the body, making the entire body a tool for learning. The more neural pathways, the larger the brain.
Physical activity activates the brain much more than doing seat work because moderate to vigorous movement feeds oxygen, water and to the brain, optimizing performance. Sitting, on the contrary, increases fatigue and reduces concentration.
Activity helps children develop their fine and gross motor skills as well as dexterity and balance, all through exploring, risk taking and having fun. This enhances their anticipation and prediction. In short it helps them become streetwise!
Independent travel by bike or on foot is the perfect way for children to make choices, plan and expand their creativity. It is also necessary outlet for reducing stress, allowing the brain to recharge.
The shocking statistics of
- 4 in 10 children now obese or overweight
- 8 out of 10 children in London not doing the minimum activity required for good health
must be a wake up call.
Here are my recommendations, specifically but not exclusively aimed at London’s children:
- We need road pricing across London to reduce motor traffic to ‘essential’. This will decrease road danger, air pollution and congestion that impedes children’s access to outside play and independent travel.
- We must remove car parking strategically to reintroduce dedicated play streets and a car-free cycling network across London. Children need to see and be seen.
- The Healthy Streets approach needs to include cyclists from all walks of life as well as pedestrians from all walks of life.
- Staggered crossings are not acceptable design, leaving children stranded in the most polluted part of the road.
- No child should be severed from school or parks through lack of safe crossings
- We need 20 MPH speed cameras or police enforcement. 20 MPH London streets are worthless without appropriate enforcement.
- We need weekly car-free Sundays in Central London and Town Centres for families to enjoy.
- Cycling infrastructure must be suitable for children cycling independently, as a minimum requirement. NB Bus lanes are not appropriate cycling infrastructure for children.
- Children’s health and wellbeing must be prioritised over car use and storage.
- Transport for London must be open about how it uses data and algorithms in traffic modelling that can discriminate against children’s human rights.
- We must ban and price polluting cars, whether petrol, diesel, hybrid, electric or hydrogen by real world emissions. Our children’s future must not be burdened by our failures on emissions, including air pollution, water pollution and greenhouse gases.