Why don’t kids play outside anymore? One big reason is that it’s often illegal. Childhood Independence is a growing movement across the United States which aims to change that. Several states have passed, and more are considering, bills to support it. These can improve our communities not just for children, but for all of us.
LetGrow is one organization that advocates for what they call “reasonable childhood independence” laws. Their goal is to permit children to do normal childhood activities on their own, such as play outside and walk to school. You can read about LetGrow’s recent legislative efforts and how you can get involved here.
Although this isn’t an issue I usually focus on with this blog, building a child-friendly community and building a walkable and bikeable community share a lot of overlap. You can’t have a child-friendly neighborhood without also making it walkable. As we saw in our recent article “How Japan won the ‘traffic war’ that the US is losing,” designing for independent children is a critical strategy to end deadly traffic.
Legislation is never a silver bullet. Once law books change, most of our public spaces will still suffer from dangerous car-centric roads, which limits how reasonably independent our children (or car-free adults) can be. Nonetheless, these bills are important to pave the way for further progress.