Local authorities need more cohesion to offer children safer and healthier lifestyles through better access to play, according to Sustrans.
The UK’s leading sustainable transport charity today published Routes to play which calls for more joint working across council departments – especially children’s services, planning and transport – to ensure young people can get to play spaces actively and independently.
Routes to play responds to research which has highlighted traffic as one of the main barriers to play.
In addition to setting out how to develop a coordinated approach to active play across strategic planning, the guide sets out how to improve:
• routes to play spaces through infrastructure, such as installing crossings, lighting and signage
• cycle access to play spaces through cycle parking, and reviewing cycling restrictions
• safe access through limiting traffic speeds to 20mph and below in built-up areas
• local knowledge of walking and cycling routes to play spaces through maps and information
It also calls for the need to involve children and young people themselves in creating safer routes, and to create play spaces along traffic-free paths.
Sustrans Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd said: “Children and young people’s freedom to play and be active outdoors has been restricted in recent decades, and the rising levels of childhood obesity now highlight the crucial role of physically active play.
“Children themselves identify traffic as the main barrier to outdoor play and there is a clear need to ensure they can walk and cycle – where they live – and that they have access to traffic-free spaces for play.
“This won’t happen without rethinking the way our public spaces are planned and managed, to prioritise walking and cycling access over motorised transport. Children should be able to travel actively and independently, when visiting friends or going to the park - play and active travel are interwoven and sometimes indistinguishable.”
Routes to play features successful case studies including traffic-calming of residential streets in Swindon and the creation of nearly two miles of new walking and cycle routes in a large public park in Edinburgh.
Routes to play is available for download at www.sustrans.org.uk/play