This post is part of a spotlight series on the BOLT Safety platform called 'Spotlight: Perspectives', where members of our community can use the platform to discuss issues that matter to them, related to personal safety, violence, discrimination, abuse, access to basic resources, and mental health. You can filter the Hub content to read posts specifically in this series.
This post we're sharing has been written by an anonymous contributor, and is about how urban planning plays a role in providing a sense of safety and comfort.
This article discusses personal safety. If you are in urgent need of help, please contact your local emergency response services (911) or a crisis support line (like VictimLINK at 1-800-563-0808).
Photographer: Jazzy Wan
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Picture this: you’re waiting for a bus. It’s late at night and you’re the only person there. The streetlight beside the bus stop flickers slowly, making you feel like the main character in a horror movie. The bus stop itself is a small structure, a dark blue colour, with walls covered in graffiti and miscellaneous marks and scratches. You can hardly see outside. Lastly, you don’t recognize the neighbourhood and have never been in this community.
Now picture a bus stop within the same city, maybe nothing more than a street over, at the same time of night. This one, however, is well lit. The bus stop cubicle is open and inviting, the seats are clean and the white colouring of the outside makes you feel more at ease. You know this neighbourhood and understand the community.
Even though both of these locations are close in physical proximity and you are there at the same time of night, the second one would surely feel much safer. This is a good example of how city planning and design can have a profound impact on not only how safe we feel, but further, how safe we actually are.
These are the aspects of city planning that I believe impact our safety the most:
Openness and Visibility
This includes how many windows or doors there are. Is there an easy to spot escape route? Is it likely to get lost in dark hallways? The more restricted and closed off a building is, the more uncomfortable that I would feel, not having a clear view of my surroundings. In this way, it is vital to open spaces up to provide a feeling of comfort. This also has the added advantage of allowing more visual aid for possible witnesses in the event a crime does happen.
Colours can, in fact, have profound effects on how we feel around them. For example, parents looking for a colour for their child’s nursery may opt for a softer colour, such as white or pastel blue. These colours are more likely to be soothing for a child than a harsher, darker, colour such as navy blue. Even as adults, our moods can be affected by the colours around us. Spaces should therefore be designed in lighter or more playful colours- I feel this will help the people entering them feel a greater level of safety.
When we feel connected to our surroundings and the people sharing them with us, we are more likely to feel safe in them. Even just adding aesthetic choices that are friendlier in nature can help a space of strangers feel more like a community. I believe that small additions such as art can bring a more familiar feeling to a space.
In order to allow greater feelings of safety among citizens, cities must be designed to both repel crime and ease tensions. There is never an excuse for any form of violence, however, urban planning can strategically help alleviate some of the underlying factors which can make people feel unsafe. This will help result in more comfort and greater feelings of safety among civilians.
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