Child-Friendly Bhubaneswar : Children join city planners to conduct safety audit of streets

Bhubaneswar: Two groups of school kids walked down the footpath of Rajpath, the street stretch from Raj Bhavan Square to Raj Mahal Square in the city on Sunday afternoon, noting down the available facilities for pedestrians or the lack of it on the road. This was done as part of the street audit conducted by the children themselves with the help of planners and architects of Bhubaneswar Development Authority and Bhubaneswar Urban Knowledge Centre, in order to understand the issue from children’s perspective, as Bhubaneswar envisages to transform itself into a child friendly smart city. In line with the internationally acclaimed “Urban95 principle’’, the children were persuaded to look at the infrastructure and facilities from the perspective of a normal four year kid with an average height of 95 cm.

Prior to the nearly two hours street audit guided and facilitated by BDA, the nine children from socio-developmental organization Humara Bachpan, who participated in the street audit on Sunday afternoon, were briefed on the overall process and how to record their observation along with suggestions to make the street safer and friendly for children.

Several interesting observations made by the children included, the need for median pedestrian crossings at every 200 meters and reducing height of median bushes to ensure clear visibility of the other side of the road for safe crossing by children; properly placed road signage clearly identifying cycle track and footpath; need for pruning of trees to create clear head space over cycle track and footpath etc.

Another aspect which all the children unanimously suggested is for making the footpath and cycle track obstacle free by relocating, electric poles, supporting wires etc. or at least painting them in bright colours for clear visibility. Many of the children suggested seating facilities such as benches alongside the footpath while few suggested some playful seating such as a tyre-swings or creating small interactive places for kids, making it exciting for kids. Some of the issues noted by the children during the audit include illegal parking on footpath and cycle tracks, broken drain-covers on footpath, unauthorized pick-up and drop of points near AG square traffic junction posing difficulty for pedestrians, trees and sculptures posing obstructions to clear view at traffic junction, lack of drinking water and toilet facilities along the street, lack of clearly visible zebra crossings and speed breakers at traffic junction as well as connecting side streets etc.

Earlier on Sunday, another batch of nine school going kids undertook a survey along with urban planners and officials of BDA to assess the child-friendliness of the neighbourhood near BDA colony in Chandrasekharpur area. During the survey, the children filled in the answers provided by the kids of the colony on the facilities available at their home, school and neighbourhood. The questions ranged from availability of play area and time, participation of children in local community events, safety perception, unsafe areas, health and education facilities, sanitation and drinking water facilities. The children of the communities were also asked on how much they know about rights of children and awareness level on whom to approach and what to do when in danger. The idea of getting this survey done by children was to make the kids of the colony feel comfortable to share their experiences and views.

The main objective of conducting such audits/surveys with kids is to develop capacity of the next generation, understand the point of view of kids and involve kids as the prime stakeholders in the overall process of city development and planning. It may be noted here that Bhubaneswar Smart city proposal envisages the city to be developed as a Child Friendly smart city where children can study, play and travel safely. The city has collaborated with NIUA and Netherland based Bernard van Leer Foundation to develop the city as child friendly through strategic interventions in both infrastructure development as well as increased association of children in the development process of the city.

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