How Urban Design Fails Families

For parents of small children, amenities like public restrooms or shady parks can vastly improve—or deteriorate—the experience of navigating cities.

2 minute read

June 22, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Writing in Streetsblog USA, Barry Greene Jr. outlines five ways that the built environment fails families with young children.

The first problem, Greene writes, is shade. For example: in the warm, humid climate of Greenville, South Carolina, a new city park fails to provide almost any shade. Greene writes that parents and children need shady spots to rest during an outing.

The second issue, for Greene, is public restrooms. Most U.S. cities famously lack a robust network of public bathroom facilities,  often turning a walk around a city into an urgent hunt for a bathroom. For parents of toddlers, this is another way their needs are excluded from the public built environment. “Cities are so afraid of our housing insecure that we’ve simply made it inhumane to use the bathroom. Children can’t wait — and sometimes, neither can adults.”

Greene also laments the lack of pedestrianized streets, which create safe spaces for children to run and play, as well as small-scale shops and “micro-retail storefronts” that let parents quickly access daily needs.

Greene’s fifth element of public life that doesn’t cater to parents and children is public transit. “I’ll also include family-friendly ridesharing. Currently, there’s no way to request a rideshare with a child car seat.”

Ultimately, Greene’s advice, aimed at designing cities with children in mind, can make public spaces more safe, pleasant, and accessible to all groups.

Friday, June 16, 2023 in Streetsblog USA

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