dr lisa kane

Lisa Kane Streets for kids

Imagine that instead of a COVID pandemic we had a fertility pandemic. Women lost their ability to conceive, or men became infertile. You can choose your own dystopia here. The result is the same. This generation of children is humanity’s last.

How do you feel about that?

Most feel immediately drained or even, devastated. Children, whether they are your own or someone else’s or even just some vague idea, mean something to us. No matter how bleak our history, or our present, children encapsulate the possibility for a better future. Hope.

And hope for the future, as it turns out, is really important to us as human beings. Hope for the future allows us to find joy and meaning today.

So, it was particularly poignant to me that 2020 was also the year that NACTO shared its ‘Streets for Kids’ design guidelines. The very idea of ‘Streets for Kids’ is an idea of hopefulness. It’s about cherishing our shared future. And it’s an idea that gives us, street planners, engineers and advocates pause for thought.

In traditional road design, it’s strange to imagine designing streets around kids. In our traditional ways of thinking streets are designed for efficiency, which means the greatest throughput possible and at the highest speeds. Pressure from car manufacturers in the earliest days of traffic engineering meant that ‘efficiency’ became equated with car movement for a long time. So, in South Africa we have inherited road design guidelines which direct us to build more and better ‘Streets for Cars’. Designing for humans without cars is still mostly an afterthought. The most vulnerable, including our children, are at the very bottom of the pyramid of needs we use when we think about road design.

As NACTO pushed out other pandemic related guidelines, it seems that this took a (hopefully temporary) backseat. Losing sight of this particular thread was one of the many losses of the pandemic.

Seriously, why not a ‘Streets for Kids’ road design guideline?