Children and Sidewalks

I spent my childhood afternoons, and the entirety of my summers, outside in the streets and parks of my hometown. My mother would drop me off at my cousin’s house a few blocks away and we were left, for the most part, unsupervised for the rest of the day. My only interaction with adults occurred after darting in and out of the houses of my friends. This broad network of parents and neighbors watched out for me, fed me, and let me use their phone when I was ready to return home. They were the parents of my friends and family, and served as a wide net of support just as my parents did for others. Other than these moments spent inside, however, we played outside all day, every day. This was only possible, however, because I lived in an affluent small town on the outskirts of Atlanta. Thus my childhood experiences were very different than the ones described in Jane Jacob’s chapter on city sidewalks. For myself as a child, and even for children I’ve babysat as a young adult, parks and playgrounds are safe places to let kids play in relatively unsupervised. But as Jacobs points out, this isn’t always the case in large cities. Rather, it is the supervised sidewalk monitored by a range of adults that is arguably safer for kids to play in. It is interesting that this is once again a fact that city planners fail to realize, and fail to adapt to in their work. An especially interesting point made by Jacobs, and one I hope to find elaboration on in class, was the differences between matriarchal and patriarchal spaces, and the inability for mostly-male city planners to accommodate a space for the most correct, applicable, and appropriate society to adopt it.

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