Children playing with a ball don’t mix well with cars

A group of children are playing with a ball. They lose control of the ball, and it rolls across the street. It’s an innocent daily occurrence sometimes resulting in a dead child, a driver facing criminal charges, outrage over a needless death, anguished parents, and so on. Who’s really at fault? It’s probably not the kid because s/he is too young to understand traffic. Is it the driver? Maybe the driver wasn’t paying enough attention, but what about the typical suburban architecture where big heavy objects (cars and trucks) travel at high speed on streets conveniently placed between rows of houses and inconveniently a space where children will naturally want to play.What’s the natural thing when you have houses containing children near one another? The children will meet and want to play with each other. In the space between their respective houses. What’s that space? A street full of cars. Cars that will kill them if car strikes child.

There’s a couple ways to view this .. one is the driver centric point of view where everything must be done to ease the life of a car driver, route car-bearing roads to every house, set up traffic laws and road policies to favor car drivers, and design the architecture of neighborhoods and cities to favor car usage. This is the way Modern America has designed itself since the age of Cars came upon us. America wasn’t always designed this way, but we’ve had enough decades of Cars that our population has forgotten about the alternative view.

The opposite organizing principle is pedestrians and walkability. Design streets and neighborhoods from a viewpoint that pedestrian access and walkable neighborhoods are the core principle. 
 
It’s not a radical off the wall strange concept. Cities used to be designed for walkability and part of what makes European cities so wonderful to be in is their pedestrian centric walkable design principles.

Walkable cities improve the overall health of residents and are generally more interesting places to live with higher property values. To understand why we must first look at the definition of walkability – the designers of the Walkscore model describe walkability as the number of interesting destinations (restaurants, shopping, entertainment, shopping, schools, libraries, etc) within a walkable radius around each place, along with a lack of walkability barriers.

Of course a neighborhood with shopping you can walk to is likely to be a more likable place to live than an area with no interesting places to walk to, and where you’re chained into your car to find anything interesting.

It’s a pretty simple observation but our car-addled society is probably blind to it.

The children I just observed whose ball rolled across the street inspiring this blog post – fortunately they survived and were able to retrieve their ball without getting killed. That despite our street being immediately adjacent to a busy four lane expressway 20 feet away from the ball. The 6 year old in charge appeared to have been instilled with a proper respect for being careful about crossing the street and he and the two three year olds with him waited for an adult to help them retrieve the ball.

What do you think? Let me know below!

Here’s a few related articles:
Walkability and walkable cities
Review: Portland: Quest for the Livable City
Walk Score gets to expand due to funding from the Rockefeller Foundation
Walkability for green healthy transportation
Walkable neighborhoods have higher land values
Denser urban cities are greener, more livable, says BART board member Tom Radulovich

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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