KIDS, CARS & CLIMATE

Opening the world to our kids

As parents, educators and caregivers, we all want what's best for our kids. Kids should be safe and healthy, and feel excited about the world they are growing up in.

Kids, Cars and Climate: Opening the world to our kids is a short explanatory guide on the things we can do that will have the biggest impact to protect our kids now and in the future.

To protect our kids, we must change our streets.

By contacting our local representatives and asking them to make our streets safe for everyone – including young people, women and disabled people – we can build more vibrant neighbourhoods and healthier communities while protecting our kids and the climate that supports us all.

Kids, Cars and Climate is available in either a digital or printable PDF format, and can be freely shared, reproduced or printed for distribution within your local school, community, or parental group.

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Help make our streets safe

There are a few easy things which you can do to help open up our streets to everyone, including children.

 • Talk to your kids about what they would like to see on their streets, and what challenges they face when moving about their neighbourhood;


• Connect with other parents, teachers or caregivers to share ideas and concerns;


• E-mail or contact your local representatives (Councillor, Local Board member, MP) about how you can open up your streets to children by providing for everybody’s needs;


• Ask your school’s Board of Trustees to work with your local council and make a plan to protect children near their school;


• Connect with community groups who work to make our public spaces more child-friendly and accessible to everyone.

 • Download and distribute either the digital or print copies of Kids, Cars & Climate, or consider speaking to your local school or community group.

Download the digital version here.

Download the printable version here.

Title page with image of kids riding a bicycle, wheelchair and push scooter. The text reads: Kids, Cars and Climate. Opening the world to our children. A simple guide for parents, caregivers and educators, with things we can do to make our streets safe and healthy places for everyone, including children.
Protecting our kids is the most important thing we do. Kids should be healthy and safe now, and feel happy and excited about their future. As parents, caregivers and educators, we must make sure that our children are protected everywhere they go.
The world our children grow up in must be welcoming and inclusive to their needs.  Kids need spaces which encourage movement, exploration and creative interactions with others and the environment we all share. This includes our streets, which connect all the things we need and love, and which children need to move around on just as much as adults do. By working with our local representatives like Councillors and Local Board members, we can create exciting, stimulating and welcoming streets, parks and communities for children.   Places where they can gain independence and take risks while being protected from harm.  A healthy, stable environment is essential for our children’s wellbeing, now and in the future.  When we protect the environment, we ensure our children will have fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink and healthy food to eat.  A healthy environment is key to providing secure homes to live in, good jobs to work at and vibrant communities where our children will thrive.
The largest public spaces near our homes – the spaces that connect us all to the things we love and need – are our streets.  Providing the best for our kids means making sure our Councillors and Local Board members provide streets that are open and welcoming to everyone.  The people who designed our cities designed them to work best for cars.  In a city designed for cars, residents are constrained by a lack of transport options, and cars are seen as the only way to move around.  This type of street design doesn’t meet the needs of everyone who lives here.
Too many cars is a big problem.  When too much space on our streets is taken up by cars, these streets become closed to children. Children are not able to move, explore or gain independence in their neighbourhood.  Only 7% of young New Zealanders aged 5–17 get the recommended amount of physical activity each day.  Motor vehicles produce air pollution that causes asthma and other health problems. This is particularly bad around busy roads with lots of traffic.  Air pollution from motor vehicles is responsible for over 13,000 cases of childhood asthma in NZ every year.  The noise created by traffic affects children’s memory and ability to learn. Busy roads near schools will expose children to traffic noise all day long.  Higher exposure to road traffic noise at school relates to poorer development of attention and working memory.
Car crashes can happen to anyone, and are often the result of a simple mistake or a moment’s inattention. Children don’t always have the skills and experience to judge the way that cars will move on streets. If there are lots of cars around, the chance of a crash increases.  In 2019, 269 children were hospitalised for trafficrelated injuries. A similar number of children have been hospitalised by traffic-related injuries every year since 2012.  Slower speeds make crashes less likely to happen and they also reduce how badly somebody could be hurt in a crash. Slower moving traffic produces less noise and feels less scary to people walking or riding bicycles.  Petrol and diesel powered motor vehicles produce lots of greenhouse gases that build up in our atmosphere. These gases act like a heattrapping blanket, and as heat is trapped it warms the oceans and changes weather patterns.  This impacts our ability to grow food and have clean water to drink.
Together, we can build better communities.  There are some simple things that parents, caregivers and educators must ask for from local and central government which will help to create healthier environments for our children now and in the future. When it’s easier, safe and more accessible for people to get around without a car, many more people will do so.  Calmer streets with safer speeds Anywhere that our children live, learn or explore must have a safer speed limit – including most of the streets near our homes, as well as around schools, parks and community centres. This means that if anybody does make a mistake on the road, our children will be protected.  A connected network of protected cycleways Big motor vehicles like cars and buses are scary. Every road with lots of traffic on it needs protected, connected bike paths which are separated from both cars and pedestrians so that everyone, especially children, can get to the places they need to go – like visiting grandparents.
School Streets A School Street is where the road outside of a school is opened to kids and adults walking, wheeling, cycling or scooting when students are arriving at or leaving from school. Disabled people, emergency services and neighbours can still carefully access the space with motor vehicles. With much less traffic, it’s safer for children to walk and bike, and the air is much cleaner to breathe.  Make our streets welcoming for everyone Streets can and should be places where people meet and spend time with each other. We can plant more trees, add street furniture, and include artworks and places to rest, create, learn and play. Streets are our largest public space and they are not only for moving cars. They can keep everybody happy and healthy if we ask our Councillors to make sure that everyone’s needs are provided for.
Our streets are our largest public space. To keep our children safe and healthy now and in the future, we need to rethink how we use this space. This booklet is a simple guide for parents, caregivers and educators to consider how streets affect children’s lives and the things we can do to provide the best outcomes for everyone. After reading this book, you may want to: • Talk to your kids about what they would like to see on their streets, and what challenges they face when moving about their neighbourhood; • Connect with other parents, teachers or caregivers to share ideas and concerns; • E-mail or contact your local representatives (Councillor, Local Board member, MP) about how you can open up your streets to children by providing for everybody’s needs; • Ask your school’s Board of Trustees to work with your local council and make a plan to protect children near their school.