INDEPENDENCE OF MOVEMENT: A necessity for children and a resource for the city

Independence of movement: to allow children to experience the city as freely as possible is one of the main aims of the project “The City of Children”. This involves children being able to go out, meet friends and play in city public spaces without being accompanied. Fundamental experiences such as exploring, discovering, being surprised, being bold and overcoming obstacles and risks from time to time all contribute to the development of an adult personality. These experiences help children make appropriate behavioral choices in response to different situations, and draw from them an increased understanding of what they perceive. Important in this process is the development of some vital defensive tools, which would be checked by the direct presence and constant supervision of adults. Children do not consider a place as their own unless they have been able to freely experience it: a place wasted.

The main reason that prevents children from leaving the house is danger on roads. Statistics (OMS 2016 data) indicate that road accidents are the first cause of death of young people between 15 and 29 years of age. Half of those who die on the roads worldwide are “vulnerable road users”: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. In Italy, despite the overall decrease of deaths by road accidents (ISTAT 2013 data), we are witnessing an increase in casualties within the age groups 0-4 and 65-69 year olds. Among the people involved in road accidents, pedestrians are one of the most vulnerable categories. In addition to danger from traffic on the roads, parents are also worried about the possible presence of ill-intentioned people, another obstacle to children moving freely in the streets.

Until a few decades ago children went out on their own, more or less as their parents had. Nowadays this is no longer the case for children whilst adults are going out even more. There is a direct link between children being denied the freedom to go out into the streets and their parents making cities unsafe by moving around too much in their cars. Denying children’s independence, however, is not just bad for children's development, it is also damaging to society: the presence of children in the streets means more people out and about, increasing social controls and therefore safety.

Cities are dying from traffic, carbon monoxide, and emissions that corrode monuments. They are dying too, because it is difficult (sometimes impossible) to move around on foot.

Here are 10 reasons to encourage children's independent movement:

  1. Children who travel on foot are generally physically healthier, because they exercise;
  2. Children who walk to school unaccompanied show better ability to focus in class;
  3. Children who walk around unaccompanied develop better knowledge of their environment, improved orientation abilities and mind mapping;
  4. Children who walk around unaccompanied develop a higher degree of social skills and reduce the risk of loneliness and isolation;
  5. Children who walk around unaccompanied acquire greater problem solving skills, to “get by” in difficult or uncertain situations;
  6. Children who walk around unaccompanied develop a greater sense of responsibility and self-confidence, and enjoy the trust of people around them;
  7. Children who can spend their free time playing independently with their friends develop a greater ability to organize themselves, to be creative, and to think and undertake projects;
  8. The less children are accompanied by car the less traffic there is on the roads in general, resulting in less road accidents, in particular around schools, and less atmospheric pollution;
  9. Streets with kids walking about become safer and more pleasant to walk down. With more pedestrians a shared sense of security and responsibility grows, whereas the risk of bad encounters decreases;
  10. Parents and carers normally spend much of their day accompanying/picking up/waiting for children doing their activities. All this time could be employed more usefully, for instance having quality time together.

In Practice

The International Laboratory “The City of Children" proposes sone actions to change the city:

→ A scuola ci andiamo da soli

Prima i pedoni!

Articles on Independence

“Pedestrians First!” Campaign Manual

By Daniela Renzi | 3 June 2019

In this manual you will find a description of the “Pedestrians First!” campaign, which came out of the Rome Council of children, set up by Walter Veltroni. The children asked the Mayor for permission to go out on their own, and consequently, to make changes to the city so it would be less dangerous by…

Independence of Movement of Children of the Lazio Region

By Daniela Renzi | 3 June 2019

The study on children’s independent movement was carried out in collaboration with “The City of Children” Research in the following Municipalities: Casperia Genazzano Formia Subiaco Vasanello Questionnaires were distributed asking children and their parents how often children were allowed to go to certain places in their neighborhood without being accompanied by adults and how they…

LA AUTONOMÍA EN LOS NIÑOS Y NIÑAS DE LA CIUDAD DE PUNTA ARENAS – CHILE

By Daniela Renzi | 9 May 2018

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Children’s independent mobility: a comparative study in England and Germany (1971‐2010)

By Daniela Renzi | 16 March 2018

Questo Report confronta i risultati sulla mobilità autonoma con quelli ottenuti attraverso le ricerche condotte nel 1990 e nel 1971. Nel 1990, il Policy Studies Institute (PSI) ha pubblicato One False Move: A Study of Children’s Independent Mobility (Hillman, Adams e Whitelegg, 1990). Lo studio riportava un drammatico calo della mobilità autonoma dei bambini in…

Children’s Independent Mobility: an international comparison and recommendations for action

By Daniela Renzi | 16 March 2018

Il Laboratorio internazionale “la città dei bambini” ha partecipato come unico partner italiano alla ricerca internazionale  “Independent Mobility as a Critical Aspect of Children’s Development and Quality of Life” – La mobilità autonoma come aspetto critico dello sviluppo dei bambini e della qualità della vita”, promossa dal PSI (Policy Studies Institute) di Londra nel 2010.…

A scuola ci andiamo da soli: questionari d’indagine su come vanno a scuola i bambini

By Daniela Renzi | 14 March 2018

Per misurare il livello di autonomia di spostamento dei bambini, prima dell’inizio dell’esperienza “A scuola ci andiamo da soli”, il nostro gruppo di ricerca ha messo a punto  un  questionario che indaga il livello di mobilità autonoma sia nel percorso casa – scuola che nei percorsi extrascolastici; questo questionario si può somministrare ai bambini e…

XIII Rapporto sulla Qualità dell’ambiente urbano

By Daniela Renzi | 23 February 2018

E’ disponibile il XIII Rapporto- Edizione 2017 sulla Qualità dell’ambiente urbano, completato da un Focus di approfondimento su di un tema cruciale per la qualità ambientale delle nostre città. Il Focus di quest’anno è sulla “Mobilità pedonale in città” e promuove la consapevolezza che il muoversi a piedi in città è la modalità più naturale e…

Rapporto Mobilitaria 2018 elaborato da Kyoto Club e CNR IIA

By Daniela Renzi | 23 February 2018

E’ disponibile il rapporto Mobilitaria 2018 elaborato da Kyoto Club e CNR IIA su “Qualità dell’aria e politiche di mobilità nelle 14 grandi città italiane dal 2006 al 2016”.   Allegati RapportoMOBILITARIA2018 (65 MB)

Manuale metodologico “A scuola ci andiamo da soli”

By Daniela Renzi | 14 February 2018

Con il Manuale dedicato all’esperienza “ A scuola ci andiamo da soli” è iniziata la pubblicazione degli strumenti metodologici che intendono accompagnare e sostenere le città nella attivazione delle diverse iniziative. Il Manuale, prodotto dal Laboratorio internazionale, è stato pubblicato con il contributo del Comune di Roma, che dal 2001 al 2008 ha assunto il…

L’autonomia di movimento dei bambini: una necessità per loro, una risorsa per la scuola e per la città.

By Daniela Renzi | 13 February 2018

Questo contributo – pubblicato in Studium Educationis, n. 3/2014 – intende evidenziare la necessità per i bambini di sperimentare e recuperare l’autonomia di movimento, quasi scomparsa negli ultimi anni, a cominciare dal percorso casa – scuola. Partendo dalle motivazioni di base del Progetto internazionale “La città dei bambini”, abbiamo cercato di analizzare le cause del crollo della…