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A Child Among the Sprawl

Most American cities separate areas by use through strict zoning laws. Not only are industrial uses confined to their own areas, but even residential and retail uses are separated. This is the reason you don’t often see shops, markets, bars, or offices in residential neighborhoods.


This strict separation of uses has caused massive swaths of land to be zoned only for residential, while others are zoned strictly for commercial use. As a result, most people do not live within walking distance of the places where they work, shop, and socialize, making it necessary to drive when going about daily business. Those that do live within a reasonable walking distance may find the walk dangerous and unpleasant, as wide boulevards and vast parking lots are necessary in these places to accommodate widespread car use. 


For those of us that have the ability and the means to drive a car, we may not notice how our environment is hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. Designing cities under the assumption that everyone can and should travel by car for all of their errands has negative implications for those in the community that are not able to drive. 


Consider children that are too young to drive. They depend heavily on their parents to shuttle them to and from school, “play dates,” sporting activities, and open public spaces where they can enjoy the outdoors.


Is your city’s design conducive to childhood-independence? 


Where does the social life in your community occur? How often do you see unsupervised kids in these places? 


If you were a young person without a license and car, what would you do? Where would you go?

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