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Cities for Children
Detail: Singapore is often cited as one of the world's more liveable cities but according to some planners Singapore is not thinking small enough.

Dr Crowhurst Lennard, 65, the founder of the International Making Cities Liveable Council, which is based in Portland, Oregon, on a trip to Singapore for the recently held World Cities Summit, found that traffic in downtown Singapore is a bit too heavy and street- level crossings inadequate for children to wander around on their own. In her view, a city needs to facilitate independent access for children if it wants to be truly liveable.

Child-friendly cities should provide an accessible environment and rich social life. Generally, it is a bad idea to relegate children to just children's facilities because they learn best when able to freely mingle with and observe adults in an everyday setting. 'On a simple level, it is a matter of walkability. Children have to be able to get around safely on their own as early as possible and explore their environment….That means it has to be safe not only from traffic, but also a good socially safe environment where there are familiar adults along the way who recognise them and speak to them - people of different ages,' Dr Crowhurst Lennard said.

Yet, the quality of social life is all too often overlooked by city planners too engrossed with the hardware of their cities. 'Liveability' is regularly confused with 'standard of living', she says. The latter refers to better health care, educational standards and a more comfortable environment that comes with higher incomes. Meanwhile, liveability 'has more to do with quality of everyday social life, the interactions that we have every day and the quality of those interactions'.

In her view, a poor neighbourhood with abysmal sanitation could have a socially richer quality of life than a wealthier one with its plumbing systems in order. 'The trick is to try to figure out how to reclaim that rich social life and still keep our high standards of living,' she says.

Ideally, a city should also have mixed-use environments, old and young from all walks of life working and playing in the same district. Such an integrated concept is regaining currency as urban planners realise the fallacy of zoning regulations that create buzzing business districts by day and dead zones by night.

The growing complaint in Singapore that only the well-off can afford to live within or close to the city as homes are so expensive gets a sympathetic response.

According to Dr Crowhurst Lennard housing quotas for different income groups could help right the balance in the same way the Housing Board sets quotas for ethnic groups in each block and precinct. In such an inclusive environment - where young and old, rich and poor, different ethnicities live together - people learn to 'negotiate with each other...and appreciate each others' values'. And it is these environments that will best meet the social needs of children - and ultimately, society.

For full story:
http://wildsingaporenews.blogspot.com/2010/07/want-liveable-city-make-it-child.html
Source: Based on "Want a liveable city? Make it child-friendly first" by Tan Hui Yee, Straits Times 21 Jul 10
Date: August 7 2010