Sustainable modes of travel including walking, cycling, and public transport, combined with local activity and services that caregivers need for their babies to thrive are the key ways of thinking about how urban environments should be designed and developed. Bogota, Colombia. Source: Carlos Felipe Pardo.

January 27, 2022

Are our cities fulfilling toddlers, children, and caregivers’ mobility demands?

As we develop new visions for our cities and the future in the face of the pandemic and climate change, defining progress as a city that takes care of babies and toddlers may be the way to address these crises, while also ensuring the well-being of babies and toddlers now leads to their well-being in the future.

The way our cities are planned and developed has an immense impact on the future of babies and toddlers, and cities have not been designed with their needs in mind. Never has this been more apparent than the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change converging over the past couple of years.

As cities continue to expand, they must consider how to create good environments for young families. Lodwar, Kenya. Source: ITDP.

More than a billion children live in cities. These children and their families need accessible, inviting, and safe mobility options and public spaces but are not finding them. Cities have not been designed to meet the needs of babies, toddlers, and their caregivers, and mobility systems have not been planned with their travel characteristics in mind. This negatively affects the children’s physical, mental, and cognitive development, as well as increases stress on caregivers. If we, however, invest in creating environments that support babies and toddlers, combined with mobility systems that help caregivers provide for their young children, we will create the proper conditions to help them thrive and grow. 

Investing in babies and toddlers leads to lifelong benefits for them, including educational achievement, positive health outcomes, and higher earnings potential.

Most brain development happens during this period, and the foundation for social, emotional, and physical development is laid. Every dollar invested in early childhood development results in a minimum four-fold return on investment. More importantly, every child has the right to well-being and should be given the opportunity to grow, develop, and thrive in any environment.

We do not have a moment to lose in improving how cities address the needs of babies, toddlers, and their caregivers. By 2050, nearly 70 percent of children around the world will live in urban areas. Anticipated migrations due to climate change and conflicts will further increase metropolitan populations. Already, almost 21.5 million individuals are displaced every year by climate- and weather-related disasters, the majority of whom being women and children. The scale and speed of global urbanization and the climate crisis are expected to outpace response, leaving the needs of babies, toddlers, and their caregivers even farther behind. 

Luckily, solutions exist. For caregivers, babies, and toddlers, having daily needs closeby, including places for play, matters. While the walking environment is critical, caregivers should be able to easily travel by public transport and bicycle to meet those needs.

Caregivers move freely and safely with their two children on the streets of Monterrey, Mexico. Source: Héctor Ríos.

Our cities can deliver for babies, toddlers, and caregivers if we understand their needs and plan to meet them. A new report co-created by ITDP and the Bernard van Leer Foundation unpacks the needs of babies, toddlers, and caregivers and their mobility characteristics and then posits recommendations for moving forward: the 15-minute neighborhood and 10-minute public transport. By centering care over cars, we can create communities that support the thriving and development of our future. 

We invite you to read the new issue of our Access for All series: Access and Babies, Toddlers, and Caregivers.

About This Report

Access and Babies, Toddlers, and Their Caregivers is the second installment in the Access for All series that distills common messages of inclusion, equity, and access, along with providing solutions to improving those through sustainable transport and urban development. In this brief, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and the Bernard van Leer Foundation teamed up together to explore the mobility needs of babies and toddlers (0-5 years old), as well as their caregivers. It provides key recommendations for stakeholders from civil society, subnational authorities, donor organizations, and national governments to take action to improve the well-being and development of babies, toddlers, and their caregivers through improving access. 

Link to the Full Report & Executive Summary >>

Link to the infographic >>


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