Molly McCluskey is a freelance journalist covering inequality, immigration, and foreign affairs. She is the editor of CityLab’s series on raising small kids, Room to Grow.
Ideas for urban families from Seoul to San Francisco.
This was the first issue of a new email newsletter. Sign up to receive the next issue in your inbox here.
What happens to family biking culture when you shut down a major road every Sunday for 40 years?
This is among the questions we’re answering as part of our series on raising small humans in the city, Room to Grow. Thank you for signing up for this series-limited pop-up newsletter from CityLab.
When we first began the project, we asked our readers around the world: Which urban issues affect you the most as caregivers for tiny humans? Your answers ranged from housing costs to transportation challenges to a lack of safe spaces for your kids to play. And you made it clear to us how much you care about these issues.
We’ve heard you.
Since then, we’ve been exploring the ways particular ideas and policies could make the lives of families a little bit easier, from a park in San Francisco where kids can read while they hike, to child care incentives in Seoul aimed at wary potential parents deterred by the challenges of modern family life.
Our recent article, from Bogotá, Colombia, looks at the evolution of a weekend cycling superhighway first introduced 40 years ago. Today, Bogotá’s Ciclovía isn’t just a model for car-free streets; it’s also become a place for even the youngest kids to become regular bikers.
The author of this article, Laura Dixon, has a personal connection to the story: She often rides the path with her young daughter and other local families. She says of the experience:
My three-year-old has grown up on this weekly tradition; at first, we took her in the buggy, then behind me in a child’s bike seat. Today she powers along on her scooter, occasionally oblivious to the need to go in a straight line, but perfectly safe from cars even as she zooms along what is normally one of the busiest roads in the sector. When she sees a bike lane now, anywhere, she shrieks: “Look Mummy, it’s ciclovía!”
More from Room to Grow
The above image depicts the design of part of an ideal neighborhood for families, according to critic Alexandra Lange. She highlighted the Vancouver development in her new book, The Design of Childhood.
In an interview with CityLab’s Amanda Kolson Hurley, Lange explains that the neighborhood is a stark contrast to her experience living in the United States, where “the idea of designing a neighborhood for families as part of a public good just goes against the whole way we think about public life.”
She explains the virtue of its design:
More people with children want to stay in cities; more people who live in suburbs want walkable amenities. Both of those desires should point to some of the kinds of urban design I talk about.
The first principle [that makes False Creek South successful] is layers of space, from private to public—that is largely car-free. … Each set of housing wraps around a courtyard. Most courtyards have some kind of play equipment, some open lawn, and then a flower garden or vegetable garden that’s communal.
Each apartment has a private deck or enclosed patio overlooking a shared courtyard, and off of the courtyard is a party room. It’s a classic example of, “Our private space is a little bit smaller, but we have this communal space so we can have a party for 30 people. We don’t need to have a giant living room for the one time a year we do that.”
Read the full interview: “How Kids Learn to Navigate the City in Five Designs.”
Hey readers, we need you
In our survey, many of you told us you wanted to go car-free but didn't feel it was possible with a small child. If you're one of the people making it work, we want to hear from you. Tell us your horror stories and victories about how you get around your city, and what (if any) policies in your communities make this easier or harder. Send your input to email@example.com with your name, contact info, and whether you'd be willing to have a follow-up conversation about your experience. We might use your comments in an upcoming story.
More stories on children and cities
- A short guide to Tulsa’s new $465 million park
- How to design cities for children
- The pollution that plagues Camden's public schools
- D.C.’s universal preschool program has been hugely beneficial for moms—and the economy
- The neighborhoods where kids have a better shot at escaping poverty
Like what you’re reading? Forward this email to someone who’s interested in stories about raising tiny humans in the city. They can sign up for our second update here. And please tell us what you think. Send your own comments, feedback, and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Molly McCluskey, series editor & Nicole Flatow, CityLab editor
Funding was provided by the Bernard van Leer Foundation to support our project, “Room to Grow,” about raising tiny humans in the city. Sign up here to receive email updates on the series.