Why Walking Is So Good

Why Walking Is So Good

Why Walking Is So Good for Parents, Toddlers, and the Cities Where They Live

Posted on 24.11.2017

How can making a city more walkable improve early childhood development?

In 1950, 30 percent of the world’s people lived in cities. Today, that figure is 50 percent. By 2050, nearly 7 in 10 will live in cities.

Planning and managing cities has become one of humanity’s defining challenges, yet it is hard to know how to plan for what a city needs now and in the future at the same time. What can we measure to determine if a city is functioning well for its residents today and is likely to live up to its full potential in the long run?

One answer: The daily life of a toddler.

We have strong evidence that a safe and nurturing environment during pregnancy and the first five years of life can translate to better adult health outcomes, greater ability to learn, and higher lifetime incomes. By designing cities that work for toddlers now, we improve their lives and those of their parents, teachers, and doctors immediately and we are making an investment that will help create safer, more prosperous cities 20 years down the road.

With this view, the Bernard van Leer Foundation recently launched Urban95: a five-year initiative through which we will partner with city leaders and urban planners around the world to look at their cities from an elevation of 95 centimeters – the average height of a healthy three-year-old – and incorporate the resulting insights into city planning, design, and management.

One issue that has come up in our partnership discussions in cities from India to Israel to Brazil is walkability. City leaders want to make it possible for people to walk to healthcare clinics, childcare centers, and places to play—locations where parents with young children frequently need to go.

Anyone who has been pregnant, had to board a bus with a stroller, tried to steer a group of toddlers through a metro transfer, or sat in traffic late for childcare and late for work will understand: Transportation can be uncomfortable and stressful. This can be partly addressed through better design. But it would be far better tackled by avoiding cars, buses, and metros altogether and making it possible for parents with young children to walk to what they need.

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