It takes dedicated leadership to make streets safe, attractive and convenient for kids and their caregivers. Earlier this year we brought together some of the most energetic leaders working on these projects from around the world. GDCI’s first-ever Streets for Kids Leadership Accelerator welcomed 60 professionals from 20 cities around the world, all working at the intersection of children’s wellbeing and transportation. This competitively selected group came together for twelve online sessions over a six months period for an intensive course in street design best practices. Perhaps most importantly, this was a unique opportunity for them to share ideas, questions, and strategies with each other. Here’s a look back at what went into this program.
A competitive field
Dozens of cities applied for the Streets for Kids Leadership Accelerator, and the overwhelming majority of applications were extremely strong. This was already a good sign to our team that cities around the world are interested and are actively pursuing the implementation of Streets for Kids principles — something which was not the case just a few years ago.
Many of the teams who applied included diverse disciplines. In addition to transportation planners and designers, many teams included people working in social services and education, who deal with children’s health and safety comprehensively. Some teams also included elected leaders, such as the Mayors of Thrissur and Lusaka, and together participants brought diverse perspectives on children’s needs as well as their context within communities.
As part of the application process, we required a short video to help us better understand each team and their context. People got really creative, like the team from Melbourne, Australia:
From a pool of extremely well-qualified applications, we eventually welcomed the teams from Abuja, Nigeria; Bogotá, Colombia; Bologna, Italy; Cerrillos, Santiago De Chile, Chile; Cuenca, Ecuador; İstanbul, Turkey; KisumuCity, Kenya; Leon, Mexico; Lima, Peru; Los Angeles, United States; Lusaka, Zambia; Melbourne, Australia; Prishtina, Kosovo; Quito, Ecuador; Recife, Brazil; Solo, Indonesia; Tbilisi, Georgia; Thrissur, India; Tirana, Albania; and Tyre, Lebanon as our Streets for Kids Leadership Accelerator participants.
The selected teams came from all over the world, including six continents, a range of jurisdiction size and population, and a wide variety of progress in child-friendly projects. Some cities were far along in these projects, and some were still close to the beginning.
A robust curriculum
Participants came together for the first time on May 25, 2022 for our opening session. From there we met every two weeks for six months. During that time we tackled an ambitious curriculum that explored capacity building, hands-on activities, and discussions about implementation. Each month focused on a different component of designing streets for kids:
Building a Vision for Streets for Kids
Design for Cyclists, Pedestrians, and Public Transit
Play and Learning
Evaluating and Communicating Change
What is Leadership?
International leaders on child-friendly street design joined us for these sessions to share their expertise and guidance, discussing topics around sustainable mobility, play and risk, youth engagement and air quality, to name a few. We were also reminded about the importance of actively including youth in street design processes without tokenization, and remembering that “children” applies to teenagers and youth as well as small kids.
The second session each month was a chance for participants to share their projects, connect with their peers and apply the content they heard in hands-on activities. In these sessions we intentionally created a more open format that fostered discussion, curiosity, and connection.
One real highlight from these sessions was hearing leaders from multiple disciplines share diverse perspectives on the same issue. A transportation engineer and social worker might deal with the same problem, but understand it in different ways and it was incredible to see those conversations in real time. This type of partnership, in fact, is what makes streets for kids projects succeed.
Supporting emerging leadership
In addition to opportunities to learn from experts as well as one another in group discussions, we also held one-on-one meetings with each team to better understand the challenges they face as well as the opportunities to design streets for kids in their cities. These conversations informed our workshop curriculum, as we adapted to meet the needs of participants in real time.
In total, this program brought together an incredible group of leaders doing outstanding projects around the world, and strengthened their leadership for projects to come. In the final session on November 16, 2022, participants had the opportunity to renew and share their commitments to take action and become their local Streets for kids changemaker.
I am committed to promoting Streets for Kids in my work.In the next few month I will:Review my existing projects and explore ways they can shift to better servechildren and caregivers.In the next few years I would like to:Commit to incubating new projects that focus on improving streets forkids and caregivers.In the future I hope to:Have this work easier to get done, so transformations could happen faster!
A commitment shared by one of the Leadership Accelerator participants in the closing session.
In 2023 GDCI’s Streets for Kids team will continue to work with a select number of Leadership Accelerator participants who are ready for implementation. We look forward to building on the incredible experiences of this Accelerator and continuing to follow the work of all our participants in the years ahead.
My Way to School: Making kids’ journeys to school in Santiago, Chile, safer and more enjoyable
In 2019, the GDCI team selected the capital city of Santiago, Chile, as a Streets for Kids Technical Assistance project. Together with Ciudad Emergente, a Chilean nonprofit, we selected Enrique Soro street as the project site. The project’s main objectives were to establish safe intersections, extend sidewalks, and reduce speeds.
The Global Designing Cities Initiative is committed to reimagining streets as places for people, shaping cities that are healthy, accessible, and equitable for everyone. We also recognize cycling as a safe, efficient, and sustainable mode of transportation. Despite the lack of safe cycling infrastructure that hinders many would-be cyclists around the world from relying on their bikes, there are a number of cities that have made significant progress in recent years. Committed to making its streets more cycle-friendly, Quito, Ecuador, has implemented large-scale, successful cycling infrastructure projects that make it a cycling success story.
Introducing the Advisory Committee for the Bloomberg Initiative for Cycling Infrastructure (BICI) Program
The Global Designing Cities Initiative announced the Advisory Committee for the Bloomberg Initiative for Cycling Infrastructure (BICI) Program. The BICI Advisory Committee members bring decades of experience working in transportation and urban design in cities around the world. Together they provide diverse backgrounds in sustainable mobility and urban development, and collectively they will advise the city selection process, including reviewing and providing feedback on BICI’s application finalists.