- This topic has 3 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 11:45 pm on January 17, 2019 by martha.
09/16/2018 at 7:19 pm #29466
One of the problems in our community is that we are relying on individual citizens to step up and let their kids alone to experience, forgetting about their fears and such. But there are also some other factors that contribute to this mess in our cities and towns.
Unless you live in densely populated areas in the East Coast like NYC, urban areas in the USA are highly hostile to children, elderly and disabled. Cities and neighborhoods designed for cars mean that if you can’t drive, you are basically stranded in your suburban island. The configuration of streets, in this suburban areas, with cul-de-sacs and confusing navigation, makes it extremely longer and confusing for our kids to walk, ride a bike or play.
Because people can’t walk to places (running errands, going to the dentist, and so on) there is no pedestrian traffic around areas like parks. That loneliness psychologically affects parents and the community.
Also, the physical lay out of streets, with absurdly wide lanes, turning lanes, right turns on red and lack of pedestrian crossings make very difficult for the collectives I mentioned before to use and enjoy the city. A sad example of planning disaster was the bridge that collapsed in Florida early this 2018. They tried to solve the problem of pedestrian crossing to campus separating them from the traffic flow, instead of empowering them.
But, what can we do to improve our cities and our children’s urban life?
Show up in your local city planning meeting and demand:
- Mixed zoning areas, with high-rise apartment buildings and business below, that attract foot traffic, and allow our kids to run errands on their own.
- Study parking use, remove parking requirements for new constructions.
- Improve pedestrian safety and priority. Remove turning lanes, add boulevards with trees, and pedestrian crossings with islands. Ban right turn on red.
- Narrow streets
I recommend reading the following links that are more eloquent than me explaining these issues:12/07/2018 at 3:15 pm #30229
Tim Gill from the UK has been doing interesting work in the area of child friendly urban design and free range kids in various locations around the world for several years. Check out Tim’s website at https://rethinkingchildhood.com/12/22/2018 at 11:51 am #30418
As for new construction, I think it is great to brainstorm better planning, and perhaps it would be best to talk to developers who are building the planned communities, not just city bureaucrats.
However, having grown up in an easy coast suburb of a 1 million+ city and raising kids in a west coast sprawl area of a 500,000 population “city”, I don’t find the walkability that much different in principle. In both cases, there are sidewalks, a mix of moderately busy and quiet streets, and convenience stores, libraries, parks, etc, within a mile.
In practice, the culture of the east coast suburbs is somewhat different. When I visit my parents, the kids at the local high schools are still seen walking home. People who commute to the east coast cities rely more on walking and public transit, so they are accustomed to walking more, in general, and there are more pedestrians overall. West coast cities were developed with cars in mind, and commuters are more accustomed to driving (again, a generalization).
But, I have also seen a lot less use of bussing, and more parent chauffeuring, especially of elementary kids, on both coasts. That’s not the way it was when I grew up. Conversations with other parents confirms that they have various fears that lead them to not give their kids this type of responsibility and freedom. In conclusion, I think that is what needs to be changed through normalization of seeing kids outside and building up a critical mass for safety-in-numbers. I’ll keep doing my part by trusting my kids.01/17/2019 at 11:45 pm #30694
True that. I believe as much as the city planing and town design can be made modern and smart, parents also play a major role in building that safe neighbor hood as well.
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