Report on NPR about car-free families

The Falkowski’s “Bike Dozer” comfortably carries three. From

I heard this story on NPR this morning and had to share it. It comes from NPR and Newsworks’ Elizabeth Fielder, and follows families in Philadelphia that are living without a car, even with two kids. They are getting around by safer and more eco-friendly forms of transportation: transit, bike, and on foot. Steven Falkowski modified his bicycle to be able to carry his two children, and Nate Hommel takes the bus with his daughter.

Up until a few months ago this was me and Holly. I broke down and got a car because my two-hour-one-way transit commutes to Wilmington were making it such that I was getting home at 7:00 and had maybe two hours before Lars had to go to bed. We considered moving to Wilmington, but since the Mormon church there isn’t transit accessible we would have had to buy a car anyway. We try and use the car just for commuting (or for picking up larger items like our Christmas tree), and within the city we still mostly walk and take transit. I like that I now get home before 5:00 most days and can spend more time with my family, but if I were ever to find myself not working in Wilmington, the car would be gone. For me personally, driving is stressful, with the constant risk of causing serious injury to myself or strangers, let alone the significant costs of repairs, gas, etc., and the fact that it’s near impossible to find parking on the street after 6:00. I’d just as soon take the bus and be able to spend time focusing on my kid rather than on not crashing into things.


CHILDREN & NATURE BELONG DOWNTOWN: Let’s Create a New Vision : The New Nature Movement

Children in a park in Portland. From

In this post, Mary Vogel discusses some of the challenges of families that want to move to the city. There are a number of issues that face an urban family; affordable housing, quality schools, the perception of crime, and sufficient green space are just a few of them. She discusses the plans that Portland has to convert parts of its riverfront to beaches (hopefully the Willamette’s waters are clean enough for such a proposal). Portland also has long, linear parks running through it’s downtown, which are another opportunity to interact with nature. She also mentions green streets. Conspicuously lacking from her assessment is Forest Park, the largely undisturbed forest immediately west of Downtown, which I visited on my honeymoon and went hiking, which is not something I care to do often but felt compelled to because it was just so close. As someone who will, in just a few months, be a father, and wants to stay in a walkable, urban place, these are strong concerns for me, and I hope that in the coming years cities will start to take the concerns of urban families under consideration.

The Next Big Question Facing Cities: Will Millennials Stay? – The Atlantic Cities

Millennials have come back to the city. Will they stay? From

This post from Rolf Pendall discusses what the future of cities will be as the Millennials continue to grow up. A generation ago when our parents came of age in the 70s and 80s, they fled cities to the suburbs. But, since our generation is putting off marriage and child bearing until later in life, Pendall argues that Millennials will put down roots in the city and may not want to leave when they reach these stages in life. Schools are also improving in cities and crime is going down, which make conditions better for families. As someone who hopes to have kids soon, I hope that this happens, but I am still concerned about urban schools. Cities like Philadelphia have some of the worst schools in the country, and as much as I want to stay in the city, I might prefer to move to a transit-accessible suburb if it means a better chance for my kids. Cities have done a good job of attracting single people to cities with active uses and affordable housing. Next, they need to improve schools and parks to keep them there as they have kids.

Brent Toderian: Want Families Downtown? Design for Them!

Families can live in the city. From

Brent Toderian wrote this post on families in the city, inspired by recent comments from Toronto’s deputy mayor about how cities are bad for families. He argues that this actually may be true, but it is because cities haven’t been designed for families. They lack family services, such as daycare, parks, and schools (or, in most of America, adequate schools), and often there aren’t housing units large enough for families. Toderian calls kids an “indicator species” for good neighborhoods, because if a neighborhood is good for kids, it is good for almost everyone. My desire to attract families to cities is somewhat selfish, because I want to be able to live in a vibrant, urban community with the services I enjoy, but I want to have a family, I want to have spaces for my kids to play, and I want to send them to good schools, ideally without paying more to send them to private schools. Attracting families will also help bring the middle class back to cities and broaden the tax base. I’ve commented on this a lot, but I think that cities should do more to attract and retain families.

Public Works: Fighting Gangs, Guns, and Youth Violence | cityscape | Torontoist

Is policing the best solution to urban youth crime? From

Patrick Metzger covers the recent report that London put out on the riots of last August. They came up with three main strategies for reducing youth violence: prevent kids from joining gangs by getting social workers involved with troubled youths in grade school; provide ways out for youths already in the gang lifestyle through education, family intervention, and job training; and arrest and punish those youth who refuse to leave the gang lifestyle. To accomplish these, London and other cities need money and inter-agency cooperation. Metzger compares London’s situation to that of Toronto, which has had a violent summer. He worries that these events may lead to a familiar cycle, where there is public uproar and some hasty measures taken, but over time the public grows apathetic and efforts wane until the next violent event. Crime, and particularly gang crime, is a major deterrent for families wanting to live in the city. While cities have done a great job of attracting young professionals, they are going to have trouble keeping them there once they start families if they don’t improve urban schools and reduce crime.

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