Childhood in Developed Cities

It is interesting to read about the loss of childhood in urban areas, especially in what we consider “developed cities”. While a few decades ago, parents would be comfortable sending their kids into the world with nothing but a time when to come back for dinner, parents these days feel nervous about sending their kids out alone. There are many reasons that parents feel uncomfortable with their kids being alone in an urban setting. These include increased traffic, loss of neighborhood identity and social networks, loss of accessible and trustworthy play areas, and more stressful family schedules. While there are many reasons to shelter a child from modern city life, I believe that it is very important to get kids into the cities so that they have a better lay of the land, and develop necessary relationships and street smarts. Like you mentioned in the Go Play in the Streets article, many adults don’t consider the value of play. Play and independence is necessary to foster a self-reliant human being, and this cannot be obtained by spending time inside on the TV. For this to happen, urban planners need to build a trust factor with parents, convincing them that the area is safe for children. I was in Amsterdam this weekend, and was fascinated with the bicycle culture in the city. There were crowds and crowds of cyclists, and very few cars. This is a concept, I believe, that will help make urban childhood possible. Not only can people ride a bike long before they can drive a car, but a bike provides quick and easy transport, as well as good exercise. With this concept, kids in any urban setting should feel more safe. I understand the misgivings of some parents who believe that the bikes are too close to cars, and still unsafe. But more bikes brings less cars, and fewer automobile related accidents. In addition to providing safe and fun transportation to children, adding bike lanes also increases distance between motor vehicles and the sidewalk, which makes safer sidewalks to those kids who are still not old enough to bike. While American cities do have community bikes and bike paths, they should consider planning more prominent bike lanes so that people feel safer when around heavy traffic.

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