samedi 9 juillet 2011

Observations of Chapter 4 of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities"

Chapter 4 focuses on the use of sidewalks for assimilating children. Jane Jacobs makes several clear statements about the width of sidewalks, the misconception that city parks are the only safe place for children and lively city streets are not, the importance of having a diverse neighborhood so that males can interact with children, and the adulthood lessons that children learn from playing on city streets.

In her explanation about the adequate width of a sidewalk for different play activities for children, Jane Jacobs states that “sidewalk width is invariably sacrificed for vehicular width partly because city sidewalks are conveniently considered to be purely space for pedestrian travel and access to buildings” (p 114). This is still a major safety issue in the US. The current lack of sidewalks in the US hinders not only pedestrian travel but often times bike travel as well. Even in Portland, there are still long stretches of 82nd avenue and E Glisan st where there are no sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to forge their own path or to cross these busy arterials to get to the sidewalk on the other side. I agree with her statement that children would much rather use the sidewalk to play since they are as close to home as possible while being adventurous and independent. Also the children are under the supervision of adults which teaches them not to wander into the street and other adulthood antics while keeping the children safe from bullies.

Mr Guggenheim's study on city children is analogous to how adults travel and perceive safety. If there are no alternative routes for your destination, then you are forced to follow that one path and endure the dangers that lie in the way. This social experience will mold the child's life. The child accepts the beatings and extortion as a normal part of life which will led him or her to make bad choices later in life.

Jane Jacobs makes many negative remarks towards city parks as unsupervised areas where delinquency and vandalism runs wild. I disagree that a city park is automatically a worse place for children than on the sidewalks of lively, busy streets. We need to carefully consider each park area for the benefit of the whole community not just the children, so as to provide a destination for people of all ages. This would provide an opportunity for social contact described in chapter 3 as well as improve the sense of community safety described in chapter 2.

My final observation about chapter 4 is Jane Jacob's criticism of the matriarchal planning system in the early 1960's. Since that time, female planners have emerged which have ended the 1960 vision of planning to fill the voids in housewife's and children's lives by the separation of home and other activities. In Portland, Oregon planners are working towards 15 minute communities where all the essential daily needs of a community are within a 15 minute walk. This follows Jane Jacobs statement that “working places and commerce must be mingled right in with residences if men” are to be a part of their child's life. The US needs to take the initiative to get these projects off the ground.

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