It turns out vehicular traffic does something else, too, more subtle but equally pernicious: It changes the way children see and experience the world by diminishing their connection to community and neighbors.
Appleyard worked with children in two suburban communities. One had light traffic and infrastructure that allowed children to walk and bike on their own. One had heavy traffic and children traveled almost exclusively by car. Using a technique called cognitive mapping, Appleyard asked groups of nine- and 10-year-old kids to draw maps of their neighborhoods, showing destinations such as school and friends’ houses, and marking places they liked or disliked. The results were revealing:
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. Newell Avenue, the main road in front of the school, is a tree-lined street and yet few of the trees were drawn; instead, red (danger, cars) and orange (dislike) dominated. 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. The children also drew many more places in the street where they liked to play and areas that they just simply liked: they noted playing in 43 percent more locations in their streets relative to the children in the heavy-trafﬁc-exposure neighborhood.
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.
Alex Felson and the UEDLAB served as team members with Zago Architecture to develop a proposal the MoMA exhibit Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream. Their project, Property with Properties, included concepts of constructed ecosystems through rewiliding.
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream is an exploration of new architectural possibilities for cities and suburbs in the aftermath of the recent foreclosure crisis. During summer 2011, five interdisciplinary teams of architects, urban planners, ecologists, engineers, and landscape designers worked in public workshops at MoMA PS1 to envision new housing and transportation infrastructures that could catalyze urban transformation, particularly in the country’s suburbs.
We need to take parking lots more seriously, architecturally, and to think of them as public spaces, as part of the infrastructure of our streets and sidewalks.
500 million parking spaces in the country, occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. If the correct number is 2 billion, we’re talking about four times that: Connecticut and Vermont.
As demand for housing in walkable neighborhoods rises, we should be investing in carless transit options.
It seems that almost everyday an article runs in the Times about the US suburban condition. All are grappling with a large, transformational issues: What is the role of the suburb in 21st century America? How can these lands be more productively used to support human settlements of other forms, in other locations?