By freeing up public space, taking it away from the illegal parking that invaded it, child mobility in Pontevedra underwent a radical change, both in terms of daily life activities and schooling. The city itself needed to become an educational space, since children required protection from danger but also deserved to be active members in urban life.
The Pontevedra mobility model took Francesco Tonucci’s The city of children as one of its main sources of inspiration. In this publication, Tonucci posits that designing a city by putting the young first will make it more equitable and fair for everyone else.
Objectives such as making children mobility easier, fostering the use of public spaces for ludic purposes and placing pedestrians at the top of the priority hierarchy can only be achieved if space for walkers is freed up and a cap is put on the invasion of cars.
Pontevedra has been acknowledged as a “child-friendly city” by Meniños Foundation and it is also a member of the international network The city of children established by Tonucci.
The local police force supervises the organization and effectiveness of the mobility system in Pontevedra, planning the introduction of new improvements, disseminating the experience, managing the quantitative data obtained from the central command and serving as a public interlocutor to solve any doubts the school community may have. In addition, the local police act as principal overseers of the mobility scheme and implement prevention mechanisms wherever they are needed.
This set of actions are part of a road education campaign that informs schoolchildren about the basic principles of the urban mobility model.
The municipal scheme called “School routes” is devoted to the promotion of children independence by creating the ideal safety conditions for them to go to school walking on their own.
After several years in place, both in the city’s inner ring and in the Monte Porreiro estate, the results could not be more positive: now 81% of children between the ages of 7 and 12 choose to go to school on foot, more than half of them without adult supervision.
The idea behind “School Routes” is to create safe itineraries for young children, to make public spaces more welcoming, and to commit the local population to the maintenance and expansion of a mobility model they have learnt to respect and care about.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this model, requested by the parents themselves, is the participation of volunteers who help young children cross the streets at key points throughout the itinerary, as in Monte Porreiro, an estate in the outskirts of the city where parents take turns to help the school community feel safe and gain independence.
Schools and local commerce
The “School routes” scheme emerged from a consensus between the school community, the local government and the local police force after a participatory process in which several specialists from the National Environmental Education Center (CENEAM), mobility experts, members of the local police, parents, teachers and students could express their views.
Local commerce associations also played a fundamental role, since any child who stumbles upon an obstacle is advised to enter any of the shops that show the school routes sticker and the words “Ask for help if you need it”. Shop owners would then phone the child’s school or the local police to report the incident.
The Children’s Council
This participation committee is composed of young students and presents ideas related to urban improvement during an annual meeting with the local police and the mayor.
Each of the children’s interventions receives a response from the technical and political staff and their suggestions are revised when strategic urban management decisions are made.