City Centers and Children

Urban planners are always trying to get people out of their cars, especially in Cambridge, MA and Cambridge, UK, where an organic street pattern, tons of pedestrian traffic and narrow roads cause congestion and misery.  In grad school, a frequent topic of conversation was how to make not driving a reasonable option for the parents of young children.  Babies can’t easily be carried on bikes, and even if they could, when you have a baby you typically can’t travel light.  With no good option, most parents elect to drive whenever possible.

How can planners make cycling or public transportation more attractive to people with small children?  At least part of the solution is market-based.  There are lots of child bike seats – personally I’m partial to the one where the kid rides on the handlebars, but you can carry bigger kids with a seat behind you (see below).  In Cambridge, I’ve also seen a number of adult-child tandem bikes:

this sort of thing - its all over the place

I’ve also seen quite a few Dutch cargo bikes, wherein parents can carry their children in a wheelbarrow-ish sort of thing:

In Massachusetts, I think I saw one of these in two years.  Here I see a few per day.  When I looked into it, though, I was shocked at how expensive cargo bikes are – beginning at 1500 euros – and I think it’ll be a while before they catch on in the states.  Still, its clear that there is a market for “child transport cycles,” as they’re called.  A great thing about child transport bikes is that it makes living in a dense neighborhood much more appealing – having a car on my street would be a nightmare, but having a bike is no trouble at all.  So I expect these increasingly popular bikes to contribute to the re-urbanization of American yuppies.

The city of Cambridge (UK) has gone one step further to encourage cycling: at a center city bicycle parking lot, parents can exchange their bicycle for a stroller (or a push-chair, as they’re called here), allowing parents to spend time in the city without having to carry their children.  And its free!  Cambridge is a miserable place to drive, but its one of thousands of miserable places to drive – so the opportunities for replicating the bike-for-stroller model are essentially infinite.

In the states, cities have looked into organizing bike trains for small schoolchildren to allow them to cycle to school; cities could also look into more closely aligning bus stops and schools to allow more people to take public transportation to school.  And in cities with Metros, making light rail easier with bikes and strollers would make the Metro (or bike and Metro) a more attractive alternative to driving.

What are the other things that cities could be doing to make cycling/public transport easier for young families?

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One thought on “City Centers and Children

  1. […] I personally like the ones that have a front cabin for children; I’ve written about ways to encourage riding with childrenat Ink & […]

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