Temperatures in Utah Valley are slowly rising and that means more kids outside playing. Yesterday, I wrote about the importance being able to play in the streets. But equally important is the ability of children to safely navigate their neighborhoods.
Among many experts, one way to determine if a neighborhood is safe for children — and effective for everyone else — is to use the Popsicle Test:
If an 8-year-old kid can safely go somewhere to buy a popsicle, and get back home before it melts, chances are it’s a neighborhood that works.
That quote comes from an article by Kaid Benfield in which he also explains the “Halloween Test”: compact neighborhoods that are good for trick-or-treating are also likely to be well-designed.
Benfield also quotes from Scott Doyon’s post on PlaceShakers and NewsMakers to explain the importance of an environment that children can navigate.
[…] for a child, having increasing opportunities to navigate the world around them, explore, invent, fall down, scrape knees, make decisions, screw up, get into — and solve — conflicts and, ultimately, achieve a sense of personal identity and self-sufficiency is a good thing.
That’s very similar to Sarah Goodyear’s argument in favor of playing in the streets.
But this isn’t just about safety and learning opportunities. It’s also about health. Today, Next American City explained that when children live near places to play they end up being healthier:
[…] children living with[in] half a mile of a park or playground are about five times more likely to have a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, the article notes, fewer and fewer kids live near playgrounds.
Worse still, in Provo very few kids live in neighborhoods that pass the Popsicle Test. Even my own neighborhood — one of the most walkable in the entire county — lacks a place for young kids to buy a popsicle. The logical extension of that argument, of course, is that it also lacks a number of basic amenities as well.