Improving Early Childhood Development in Bogotá Through Design
Bloomberg Associates worked with the City of Bogotá to improve quality of life for young children and their caregivers by using urban planning as a tool for social and physical neighborhood transformation.
If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.
Enrique Peñalosa, Former Mayor of Bogotá
Many people in Bogotá live in overcrowded informal neighborhoods, have limited access to nature, are forced to make long, unpredictable and even dangerous commutes. These conditions are particularly onerous and challenging for children, who are often overlooked when it comes to spatial and public design. To address these issues, the city partnered with Bloomberg Associates and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation to pilot their Urban95 Initiative, which works with municipalities to create public spaces designed from the perspective of a 95-cm tall child, the average height of a 3-year-old.
Bloomberg Associates spent more than four months gathering and analyzing data across 10 indicators (e.g., percentage of children living in poverty, school enrollment rates, rate of children receiving social service support, malnutrition and mortality rates, etc.) and developed an early childhood risk “heat map” to visualize where young children face the greatest challenges in Bogotá. This map was overlaid with children’s social service assets, major urban development initiatives and planned city programs that could catalyze neighborhood transformation and the quality and quantity of public spaces. The mapping, combined with numerous site visits, enabled Bloomberg Associates and the Urban95 team to select a target neighborhood for initial public space interventions such as painting busy intersections and crosswalks, installing raised pavement markers to slow car traffic, creating safer designated routes for mothers walking with strollers and young children, and greening existing pedestrian corridors to create attractive recreational spaces for children and their caregivers.
Based on the results of the data mapping, site visits, stroller mapping, multiple community meetings and conversations with the City of Bogotá, the La Acacia and San Francisco neighborhoods inside Ciudad Bolivar were identified for the initial pilot areas. To date, many pedestrian crosswalks have been created, more than eight hundred LED lights have been installed, two pedestrian corridors have been cleaned, painted and greened, a successful adopt-a-plant program has been launched, four new playgrounds specifically for young children have been created and more than four public art murals have been added to the neighborhood. In addition, parents have been offered lactation and child nutrition classes, ongoing events encouraging play for children, and an array of family events. Following the success of the pilot launch, Urban95 was been added to as an official city program to be replicated in other neighborhoods with vulnerable environments for children, signaling a landmark step toward creating attractive public spaces that parents and young children can utilize and safely enjoy.