How Cars Harm the Relationship Between Kids and Their Neighborhoods

Sarah Goodyear reports on a new study that illustrates the disastrous effect that commuting by car has on children's connection to their neighborhoods.

May 7, 2012, 11:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


Goodyear looks at the research of Bruce Appleyard, son of noted urban researcher Donald Appleyard, who pioneered the study of the isolating effect of automobile travel, and a study he's conducted on groups of children in two suburban communities who had varying degrees of daily car travel. What he found was startling.

"Children who had a 'windshield perspective' from being driven everywhere weren't able to accurately draw how the streets in their community connected, whereas children who walked or biked to get around produced detailed and highly accurate maps of their neighborhood street network."

The degree of automobile travel effected more than just their ability to understand their surroundings, it also impacted their emotional response to their neighborhoods.

"In the Heavy [traffic exposure] neighborhood, the children frequently expressed feelings of dislike and danger and were unable to represent any detail of the surrounding environment...Participants from the Light [traffic exposure] neighborhood, on the other hand, showed a much richer sense of their environment, drawing more of the streets, houses, trees, and other objects, and including fewer signs of danger, or dislike and fewer cars...In sum, as exposure to auto traffic volumes and speed decreases, a child's sense of threat goes down, and his/her ability to establish a richer connection and appreciation for the community rises."

Monday, May 7, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities

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