Will Postcarbon Cities be More Kid-Friendly?

The post-carbon city will require dramatically different planning. Why not plan them with children in mind, writes Jason McLennan?
August 3, 2011, 1pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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McLennan argues that the very features that made the postwar city so energy-consumptive -- freeways, skyscrapers and alienating sprawl -- also made it hostile to children. Auto-dominated landscapes make it dangerous to walk or bike to where kids want to travel, resulting in kids spending ever more time in front of televisions and computer consoles. However, with the end of the age of cheap oil comes an opportunity to rethink cities in terms of how they can be made more friendly to young people. McLennan writes,

"Think about what makes a place great for kids: a focus on found learning, serendipitous personal interactions with others, opportunities to interact with nature and natural systems (water in particular), right-sized designs that aren't intimidating and automobile-based, a city with an all-around gentle touch. Now consider a city that extended such considerations to everybody. If communities were built in ways that nurtured children rather than worked around them, all ages would be the better for it. By catering our infrastructure to those among us who have the least control, we actually usher in greater opportunities across multiple demographic segments.

It's bad enough that typical futuristic images of our cities are ecologically impossible; what's also crazy is that they never appear to be very nice places for children. It seems that the visionaries who craft these plans of soaring buildings and concrete landscapes-or even present-day housing developments with endless rows of identical homes-have forgotten the importance of what it means to just go outside and play."

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Published on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 in Yes! Magazine
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