Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


Changing the city for our children

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Since having my son, I've noticed how many parents opt to take their children to indoor playgrounds rather than spend time outside. One indoor playground even touts, "we keep children healthy by making fitness fun," as if our children don't naturally know how to have fun themselves.

I must admit, it is hard to relax as a parent, when the city seems to unwelcoming to its twenty-pound residents. Just outside our door is a busy street full of cars and trucks zooming past every few minutes. Across us, the sidewalk suddenly disappears, making it harder to push a stroller to your destination. The situation becomes even more frightening knowing that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for children aged 2 to 14.

It's not just Los Angeles that has made childhood in the city daunting. A UC Davis report says childhood in the modern age has become over-controlled and over-structured, which has led to children spending less time outdoors (including the streets) and more time in these overly safe, manicured spaces. As a result "children are increasingly disappearing from the urban scene."

Exploring the sidewalk. Photo by Carren Jao.
Oh look! Our neighbors introduced us to a "rock garden" a few blocks away. Photo by Carren Jao.
It would have been easy to sigh and say, "That's the way the city is," but Curbed LA editor Alissa Walker's post reminded that there is a lot we can do to change the city back in favor of our children. We can encourage 20 mph limits on the street (the speed where survival rate is 95 percent). We can support segregated bicycle lanes that make bike riding easier. Most especially for Angelenos, we can support Measure M, a  half-cent sales tax increase that would go toward making our rail and bus systems even more usable. It also includes improvement on bike and pedestrian infrastructure like
fixing potholes or painting crosswalks. 

In the meantime, we can all keep the end-goal in mind by taking our time and walking with our children outside or even taking a bus ride with them. As Walker beautifully writes: 
... the time I spend with my daughter getting around LA without a car is a different kind of quality time—it’s specifically reserved for me to experience the city with her. A few extra minutes waiting for a bus isn’t an inconvenience, it’s a time to slow down, admire murals, and count pigeons. (Besides, she’ll let me know when I’ve walked too fast past something she wanted to see.) 
In a car, no matter where we go, the experience never changes: I’m sitting in traffic, staring out one window, while she stares out another window in the backseat...
Wouldn't it be great to do more with your children than strap them into a car seat and then step into the driver's seat facing away from them?

Read more of Walker's thoughts on raising children car-free and the solutions on the horizon for LA's multimodal future.


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