A Playing City...

Pietermaritzburg has been cast as the Biking Capital of South Africa with the hosting of a variety of World champs in over the recent past with more to come in the future. In similar vein, we can regard ourselves as the canoeing heart of the country, the foot pounding capital with Comrades and Madiba marathons as example of our credentials, and so on. At MIDI we are contemplating how we contribute to the ethos of the playing city and we will have much to share in 2014.

Here are some issues to contemplate as we think about developing a ‘playing city’. What do you think? Do they not underpin the urgent need to look at how young people start contributing to the conversations and debates about how our City and its surrounds develop? Three issues for you to consider:

1. South Africa’ young population: a threat and an opportunity

South Africa’s relatively young population is both a major advantage and a major disadvantage. It is estimated that currently over 20% of South Africa’s population is younger than 10 years old, while in China the percentage is 9.6%, US 9.7%, Germany 8.5%, and Japan 8.5%. The long-term economic success of South Africa, on both a relative and absolute basis, will largely depend on how the youth integrate into the economy, which is really a function of education and job creation.\

2. Child Friendly Cities (UNICEF):

The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) was launched in 1996 to act on the resolution passed during the second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) to make cities livable places for all; in UNICEF terms, for “children first.” The Conference declared that the well-being of children is the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and of good governance. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child challenges cities to conceive of themselves, of the services, amenities and quality of life they provide, in a new way. All children in cities have the right to access basic services and enjoy opportunities for development. This is true whether they live with their families or alone, in informal settlements or on the streets. CFCI advocates the adoption of governance approaches and participatory urban management that promote the realization of the rights of the youngest citizens.

A Child Friendly City is actively engaged in fulfilling the right of every young citizen to:

  • Influence decisions about their city.
  • Express their opinion on the city they want.
  • Participate in family, community and social life.
  • Receive basic services such as health care and education.
  • Drink safe water and have access to proper sanitation
  • Be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse.
  • Walk safely in the streets on their own.
  • Meet friends and play.
  • Have green spaces for plants and animals.
  • Live in an unpolluted environment.
  • Participate in cultural and social events.
  • Be an equal citizen of their city with access to every service, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or disability.

3. Child Friendly Cities conference in Denmark –SEE what a city can do!

“Denmark: New play route through Odense as Child in the City host adopts motto “to play is to live”.
Free play and leisure activities for the whole family; always open in the heart of the city. That’s the promise of a new initiative in the South Denmark city of Odense, host of the 2014 Child in the City Conference.

On 11 September 2013, the Odense Play Route was opened by the city’s deputy mayor for culture, Steen Møller together with the managing director for KOMPAN, Denmark, Tinna Pichard.
Deputy Mayor Møller hailed the route not only as a great initiative for public health and family-friendliness, but also as an example of the kind of solution made possible when city planners and architects work with other municipal departments and external experts. He highlighted in particular the value to the project of its cooperation with the KOMPAN Play Institute and KOMPAN Denmark. Tinna Pichard of Kompan said that it was a pleasure for KOMPAN to have been involved in such a positive project, which has been enthusiastically welcomed by the city’s residents, young and old.
The meticulously planned route, spanning 6km of bike lanes and pathways through the most beautiful parts of the city, offers nine distinct play and activity areas catering for the need of both parents and their children for healthy and enjoyable outdoor activity that is fully integrated within the heart of the city.

The origins of the project, which is intended to demonstrate the city’s ethos, “to play is to live”, date back to a planning decision in the 1930’s when politicians had the foresight to authorize the city’s purchase of land along the part of the river flowing through the city centre.
Because the riverbanks are in public ownership, today it is possible to cycle, walk – and now play – through the city centre following the flow of the river. The 6km route through the city forms only a small part of a 30km route for serious walkers and cyclists leading from the river’s origin all the way to the Fjord of Odense.

The University of Southern Denmark, co-host of Child on the City, 2014, is evaluating the Odense Play Route as an example of citywide cooperation and its benefits to children and families.”