Child Streets

Sam Bass Warner, Cambridge, MA
Eran Ben-Joseph, Cambridge, MA

There is a world movement underway to construct new streets and alter existing ones so that they become friendly places for children to play. The United States needs to adapt these precedents for installation here so that we can realize the many benefits that these new child-friendly streets offer.

Based on existing cases these benefits include: Decrease of vehicles’ speed and the minimization of serious risk of accidents; gains in both green areas and play space; health and social benefits through informal exercise and neighborhood social interactions; traffic calming of residential streets without blocking access by automobiles and trucks; a potential increase in residential values; and flexibility in neighborhood design. Obstacles to establishing such streets in the United States remain high. These include liability concerns as will making access easy for the largest trucks and emergency vehicles. Yet local authorities can address these issues as part of programs for traffic calming and neighborhood design. In new subdivisions, for example, developers could establish such streets as part of their plans. In existing neighborhoods small mitigations could start through cooperation among abutters who are concerned with the speed of traffic on their streets.