City Planning and Kids with Rickets

Readers yhdybzzdft
— Why are more kids coming down with rickets? Possibly because they aren’t getting enough sunlight. And why is that? Of course a helicoptering society plays its role. But so does atrocious city planning, as you’ll feel in your (possibly softening) bones when you read this fantastic essay by Rachel Cooke in The Guardian:

Rickets is on the rise, but let’s not consider it a Victorian throwback, more of a symptom of our airless lifestyle by Rachel Cooke

Do you ever feel like you are living in a dystopian novel by JG Ballard? I know that I do. Take last Monday, when I found myself at Marseille airport, the interview I’d been doing having finished too late for me to fly home. I’d had the foresight to book a room in a hotel that I would be able to reach by means of a handy 24-hour shuttle bus but on the night I was suddenly reluctant to take advantage of this particular “courtesy”. For one thing, I’d spied the hotel from the coach I’d caught from the city, and thought it could not be more than a five-minute stroll from the terminal. For another, it was a balmy evening. Daringly, I decided to walk.

What followed might have been funny if it hadn’t been so frustrating: an obstacle course for the mind as much as for the body. At first, I took the various hurdles in my stride. A busy car park. A series of mini-roundabouts. The forecourt of a petrol station. When motorists hooted at me, I tried to look nonchalant, swinging my bag jauntily, as if this was a route I took every day. When the hotel sign was in clear sight, my spirits soared, a weird sense of achievement rising inside me. I’d done it!

But my journey was not over yet. Ahead, the road was bordered only by a narrow verge. Could I struggle on, tightrope walker-style, one foot daintily in front of the other? I could not. One false step, and I’d be killed by the next whizzing Peugeot. Pretty soon, I was back at the mini-roundabouts – dusty by now, and in low spirits. Pretty soon after that, I was on the courtesy bus, listening to Mantovani.

It’s thanks to episodes like these – such stifling crises seem to occur ever more often in my daily life – that I didn’t feel remotely surprised by the news that rickets is on the rise in British children.

Read the rest here!  And tell us: Is it actually even POSSIBLE for a person (including a young one) to get to the store or the school by foot in your town? And if not, is there some way to get this changed? Just in case, here’s the Safe Routes to School site. They are on the side of citizens who want to make sure there’s a walkable route to school.  – L

This does not look particularly walkable.

This modern day moat.

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59 Responses to City Planning and Kids with Rickets

  1. everydayrose November 8, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    I live a little over a mile from work and I walk there and back most days. On days that the weather is awful or I know I’ll be short on time because of stuff I have to do after work I’ll take my car.
    It’s been really interesting to me because I keep having people that I work with tell me that they saw me walking at such and such time and they “felt sorry” for me! I keep explaining to them that I walk by choice but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. People actually pity me because I choose to walk.

    I think the fact that we’re supposed to be ashamed to be seen walking anywhere these days is a HUGE part of the problem and something that’s definitely filtering down to the kids, whether they’re capable of getting to where they’re trying to go or not. Even my own kids have picked up on this and feel weird about walking to the store or the park or wherever they want to go. It’s so frustrating and sad.

  2. Asya November 8, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    Oh no, I feel so sorry for Ms. Cooke. I know exactly her frustration when one cannot reach a simple location because of the atroscious design, having to walk huge strip mall blocks just to cross a highway. I often felt this way as a teenager in the car-centric West, feeling enormous stress at not reaching basic things after having lived in Japan and constantly being on rails, subways, and buses to reach the farthest corners of Tokyo and beyond. Nowadays, when I leave the city and have to go to, say, NJ suburbs, it still invokes a sort of nausea at seeing only cars, but no sidewalks even on residential streets. It makes me so sick and angry one cannot even go for a walk, never mind a baby in a stroller. These trips usually end so terribly because it invokes so much disgust at the car-centric planning, that I’m in tears! Do people really think cars should be the default mode of travel?

  3. Jennifer November 8, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    I can walk to a shopping area that has restaurants, shops of various sorts, a used book store, a couple of bakeries, and at least 6 conveniences stores (three of which are 7-11s). Within a 15 minute walk is a small grocery store, an electronics store, and a traditional morning market, as well as a couple of schools of various levels and a post-secondary tech school. You do see kids out walking, but advanced traffic safety is a pre-requesite.

    I could walk to work (about an hour’s walk), but the climate plus the fumes from heavy traffic make it less than enjoyable.

    Of course, when I lived in L.A., I had total strangers recognize me as “that woman who walks everywhere” (I didn’t have a car), and a male friend of mine was pulled over by the cops a couple of times for walking home late.

  4. BL November 8, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    My little town is still pretty walkable.

    Problem: businesses and schools have increasingly been pod-zoned across a state highway with “no pedestrian crossing” signs.

    So you see children with skateboards and the like out playing, or adults “power-walking” in sweats, but actually going somewhere? Not so much.

  5. Denny November 8, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    I live 30 miles from my work, so I obviously don’t walk there. However, I also live pretty close to my city’s downtown, and my husband and I decided recently that we ought to take advantage of that and walk around town more. We already hike, but all of the woodsy hikes require a drive first. We’ve walked to a cutesy little store that’s a bit like Whole Foods, where we stop for a break before heading home, and we also discovered that there’s a Chines food restaurant three blocks from our house.

    And, as a nanny, I’m outside a lot at work – at parks, on the sidewalk and grassy field by their apt, etc. The older one will be in kindergarten in August, and we may decide to walk her to school if we can all get up and ready early enough (or walk her home if Little Sis is up from nap early enough).

  6. Tamara November 8, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Flashbacks to my dad telling me I’d get “crickets” because I always played inside.

    In my town, no, you cannot walk to school. The road leading to the school does not have sidewalks. In fact, any time I see someone walking there, I am sure I will read about their death later. Tiny little shoulders of grass.

    There are sidewalks leading to a store about a mile away. Not many people walk there.

  7. Meagan November 8, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    My city is pretty walkable and bikable. It’s not perfect, but they are actually trying to add bike and pedestrian lanes. Granted, we can’t walk to school because we’d have to walk along and cross a state road that has no sidewalks and no safe crossing near the school.

    Here’s an article from the student paper about the bike lanes:

  8. SKL November 8, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    I’ve had similar experiences while traveling. What looks like a reasonable walk is an exercise in futility. Though wearing flat (or flatter) shoes does expand one’s opportunities.

    As for my neighborhood, I live at the end of a cul-de-sac and everyone’s backyard feeds into a ravine (except for one that leads to the backyard of another cul-de-sac dweller). A walk to the park – probably a half mile as the crow flies – is a mile along the road. There are some parts of the walk where there is no sidewalk – randomly, no idea why. But we just walk over the grass to walk to the park. We’d go more often if it were a straighter route. It takes a long time for young kids to walk a mile, and we’re busy.

    The rec center is similarly about half a mile in another direction, but a mile or more if you take the roads. Again there are no sidewalks for quite a ways on the road leading to the rec center, which also leads to the middle school. My kids and I walked it once when they were two, but it was pretty impractical. On the way home it started raining, and we had to cut through yards to get home, which not everyone appreciates.

    The nearest school is probably 2 – 2.5 miles away. My kids have walked it to access the playground, but it’s a hike. My house is zoned for another school that is over 3 miles away, across a couple of busy roads. Walking there is completely impractical. Even driving there is impractical as it’s out of the way vs. where most people work.

    The closest place to buy anything is a corner store about 2 miles away. There’s a shopping plaza maybe 2.5 miles away. When the kids get older, they could ride their bikes there – though it will take some additional skill thanks to the hilliness of our area. Our house is on top of a hill and my kids have not yet mastered biking up and down it.

    Again, the closest library is a couple of miles away and there are no sidewalks for about half of the way. That stretch is a pretty busy road where people speed.

    And all these places are spread out in different directions.

  9. Donna November 8, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    The Farmer’s Market, a park, the elementary school, several restaurants, a CVS, a bar or two, YMCA, the hospital are within a mile, can easily be reached on foot and we do so frequently for many of them. The largest obstacle is a very busy 5 lane road. I don’t mind crossing it but I don’t allow the 8 year old to do it herself.

    Downtown is about 2 miles away but an easier walk with no large roads to cross. I’ve done it when alone but my daughter was really too young to make the hike before we moved to Samoa. Getting downtown gets to you the college campus, many restaurants and little shops and many many many bars. It is a fun place to hang out and I hope my daughter will one day make some friends who are allowed out by themselves so they can all go. Since her friends are not allowed to walk around the block by themselves, I’m not holding my breath that this will ever occur.

    Grocery stores, the library, upper level schools, and larger retail stores are walkable but it would not be a pleasant walk and involves crossing the 7 lane major downtown access highway (at a crosswalk and light). It is something that I COULD do if I needed but will probably never choose to do.

    That said, this lady was at an airport. Airports have never been pedestrian areas. They are intentionally set away from everything because they use up huge amounts of space. Some conveniences may have grown up around them, but I would still never expect to be able to just walk to them from the airport. The fact that you can’t walk to a hotel from an airport says absolutely nothing about a decline in walkability in society, or even this particular city, since they have never been walkable areas.

  10. Katie G November 8, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Agree with BL about using feet as *transportation*! I keep telling my husband that that’s one of the things I *really* want to be able to do when we next move. We have that here but haven’t in every place we’ve lived. Silly stuff! And how ludicrious to preach about “green” when you can’t do simple things like not drive. Insulting, really!

  11. Rebecca November 8, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    The local schools are definitely within “long walk” distance but would require fairly advanced traffic negotiation skills. I do see a lot of the high schoolers and middle schoolers walking by themselves though, so that is heartening.

    We have walked to the park from our house many times and could walk to the grocery store, though it’s on my way home from work so it’s easier to just go then because of the massive amount of bags.

    There are a few things downtown that would be worth walking to, such as the library, but I’d be wary of letting my kids walk alone there, having seen actual drug paraphenalia on the side walks and witnessed serious domestic violence incidents when I have jogged through myself. It’s a truly dangerous area.

  12. Suzanne November 8, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    My neighbourhood was built in the late 1920’s. I can walk almost anywhere I need to within 3km. Last Wednesday my daughter and I decided it would be faster to walk to her orthodontist appointment and then to her school (total distance of 3.6km) rather then drive though a maze of one way streets, down the major road that is under construction and then hunt for legal parking. We regularly walk to school, library, drug store, dentist, hair dresser etc.

  13. Hels November 8, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I can walk to a few restaurants, the library, the post office and a convenience store. I could walk to the grocery store too, but it borders on the uglier part of town, so I don’t. In my old town in NJ I used to walk everywhere. Where my parents live, it’s not convenient to walk to shopping or restaurants from their house, but the local elementary school is perfectly easy to reach on foot and some local kids do walk… Middle school and high school are less convenient to walk to, though it could be done, I suppose.

  14. Katie November 8, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Our town is a bit too spread out to walk to any schools, stores, etc. Also – the older roads have no sidewalks…so that is kind of out of the question. Which bums me out.

    The thing that amazes me is that when a neighbor has a get together (we all have kids in the same age bracket, have some great neighbors), some people DRIVE… Literally, people drive less than a quarter of a mile. Now, there are no street lights and in the winter the sidewalks don’t get plowed…but there is also not much street traffic. We try to always walk… Sometimes we will bring the wagon if we don’t want the 10 minute walk to take 40 (ooo, look mommy another “flower” (dandilion) for you…what’s this rock – oh oh mommy, I think it was poop…)

    When we visit my in laws we walk everywhere because we can!

  15. Wendy November 8, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    We’re in a small town, pop. about 15,000. We have bike trails and sidewalks everywhere. We live out on the edge of the town, and it’s a bit of a hike to walk anywhere, but it’s an easy bike ride. The nearest walking destination is a large grocery store about 1.5mi away, with a big box store a few blocks beyond that. We live within 2 miles of all the schools, and I always see kids walking and biking home in the afternoons. The nearest playground is 1/4mi from the house, along the walking trail through a large nature area. Walk/bike-ability is a large part of our reason choosing this town.

  16. Renee Anne November 8, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    We have a small version of a larger-chain grocery store about a mile from our house. My 3 year old and I have walked there (okay, I walked, he sat his cute butt in the stroller). It’s along a somewhat busy street but there are sidewalks and bike lanes and such. We don’t do it often, however, because it’s quite a way to go with the gazillion groceries we’d have.

  17. Heather November 8, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    This is why I actually like living in the centre of London. It’s an old enough city that everywhere, just about, is walkable. You can go along the Thames, to parks, the shops, schools…just about everywhere by foot or by public transport.

    We don’t drive, which fed into our choice of home. Instead we live very close to a very large train station and near a bus nexus. We were able to choose good childcare 2 blocks away, across no busy roads, and E has been walking to and from the childminder, with one of us, since he was 18 months old. We used slings a lot when he was tiny, and a baby backpack, and by the time he outgrew that, we could choose to take the buggy or not, depending on where we were going, and if he was likely to need a nap. E has therefore walked nearly everywhere all his life and it has made a big difference to his sense of direction. He likes to find new ways to get to the same place, so we now know our area much better.

    It’s also interesting to see just how far he *can* walk. I think we forget just how much energy kids have, and how much they like to burn it off.


  18. Cindy November 8, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    I can walk to a small strip mall with a cute man-made lake but no where that I really need to go , not even parks. My job involves driving out to patients homes so I have to use a car for work as they can be all different places and no where near public transportation that does not run at 3am. I have two goals…one to live on a farm, two to live in a city and not need my car. Don’t know if I will reach either of those.

  19. ks November 8, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    I live just under a half mile from work (on a university campus) and across the street from my kids’ school. I walk to work every day, unless I have errands to do before, and they walk to school. We also have a couple of restaurants, two small grocery stores and two big ones, a public library, and a park within a mile and a half of our house, so in summer, we walk pretty much everywhere. And if we want to go to the other side of campus, about two miles away from my house (where the dorms are), there are lots of other restaurants and shops. My neighborhood is a small island of walkability in a sea of car culture.

  20. Vanessa November 8, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    My daughter’s high school is about half a mile away, and she walks daily unless she has an activity that will keep her there after dark, in which case I pick her up. We can walk to the fairgrounds, where there’s a swap meet/flea market on weekends (and a concert venue in the summer, which is nice), and the mini-mart at the gas station on the corner. Everything else is far enough away to be impractical – I could walk to the supermarket two miles away, but I couldn’t walk home with any substantial amount of groceries.

  21. Maggie November 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    I had read that rickets are on the rise in the US as well. The article I read credited:

    1-less milk drinking
    2-overuse of sunscreen
    3-indoor lifestyles
    4-limited exposure to sunlight when we are outside

    Remember dermatologists telling us to put sunscreen on every morning, even if we were only walking to and from the car? Funny how a good idea is actually a bad one.

  22. Trey November 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Check your yahoo e-mail. Or update your contact page on the website.
    Two possible story ideas.
    First – wolf cages in New Mexico.
    Second a story from where I first heard about you NPR. You really need to comment on this one.

  23. gap.runner November 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Maggie beat me to it with her comment about other reasons why rickets is on the rise. Poor urban planning and kids staying indoors are two factors. But kids nowadays drink more soda than milk. Soda has no Vitamin D, while milk is one of the best sources of it. Another factor is using too much sunscreen, which blocks sunlight from letting the body naturally produce Vitamin D. There are a multitude of factors why rickets is increasing. You can’t just say it’s from poor city planning.

  24. Donna November 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    “to live in a city and not need my car”

    Even this is going to be tricky unless it is one of the few US cities with good public transportation.

    When the people with money left the cities for the suburbs, they took the amenities with them. Even with gentrification, you have a lot of cities like mine that have bustling downtowns completely devoid of the practicalities of life. Places where you can buy vinyl records, but not socks; a steak dinner; but not a steak; a pumpkin latte, but not coffee beans. If I lived in an apartment right downtown, I would have instant access to food, bars, music and the theater, but I would still need a car to get to the basic things of life.

  25. squishymama November 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    We live in old northern suburb of Chicago where pretty much everything is accessable by foot, bike or L, except for the one thing that I wish was: their elementary school. We are in a magnet school that is too far to walk or bike to (yet). But by the time they are old enough to start biking to school, there will be a lovely protected bike lane almost all the way there, and I fully intend on letting them use it.

  26. Emily November 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Living in a walkable area (either by being in a small town, the city center, or the country where we have room to roam, but NOT a modern sprawlburb) is one thing I don’t compromise on when looking at where we’ll live. Right now we’re 1-2 miles from schools, restaurants, parks, the library, and a short car-hop to actual nature (mountains, beaches.) My husband commutes by bike and his experience – even with bike lanes – is similar to the one in this essay: lots of cars ignoring the lines on the road, running lights, not paying attention. I think the problem might be the glorification of the car.

    I have heard a rumor that at one point, Park Avenue was free of cars and was pedestrian only with gardens lining the way. I wonder what would happen if we tried to go back to that.

  27. Earth.W November 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    It’s not just rickets in children that plague their health. Doctors in Australia have found a massive growth on children as young as eight being diagnosed with life threatening disease and illness that should not appear until a person is in their forties at the minimum.

    Like kidney and heart disease, and broken hips from the sheer weight of morbid obesity. This is what they refer too as keeping our children safe.

  28. Earth.W November 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    I find it interesting that children living in war zones have more freedom to roam than our ‘SAFE’ nations give our children.

  29. lollipoplover November 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    My kids refer to the two groups of kids in our neighborhood as indoor or outdoor kids. The kids we never see, always on their way to a lesson and can never play outside for a pick up game, get sick a lot- indoor kids. Most of the kids get to play outside though and we have lots of open space, tennis/basketball/swim club that are township owned and within walking distance. Sidewalks make a huge difference too when you have kids.

    Even though our suburban neighborhood is walkable, weather has a lot to do with our decisions. Ice and blowing wind make the car look more inviting. But even with the inevitable suburban sprawl in our area, some engineers designed roads to co-exist with biking. My kids bike to school (about a 1.5 miles away) on bike paths and sidewalks. They can walk around the same distance to restaurants and stores, though most get driven because it’s across the main highway. We had a new interstate built to allievate traffic problems and they added a bike lane and a fenced walking/running trail along 13 miles of it. The kids love long bike rides on this stretch.

  30. steve November 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Thoughts about walking and biking:

    Tamara said:

    “In my town, no, you cannot walk to school. The road leading to the school does not have sidewalks.”

    Did the early settlers in Colonial America have sidewalks? How did they get anywhere? Granted, they didn’t have contend with automobiles, but they could get attacked by wild animals or kicked by a horse or mule.

    Tamara also said:
    “In fact, any time I see someone walking there, I am sure I will read about their death later. Tiny little shoulders of grass.”

    Hmmm. “tiny little shoulder of grass?” Yet people feel safe on a “tiny” little shoulder of road called a sidewalk. I wonder why? I don’t see drivers regularly swerving onto tiny shoulders of grass or sidewalk, although it does happen sometimes.

    And crosswalks can be your death sentence “if” you actually trust drivers to avoid hitting you. Sidewalks and crosswalks carry no guarantee you’ll escape with your life.


    SKL said:

    ” But we just walk over the grass to walk to the park. We’d go more often if it were a straighter route. It takes a long time for young kids to walk a mile, and we’re busy.”

    And that is really our society’s number one problem. Everyone is Too Busy. Over-scheduled.

    Yes, it takes a long time for very small children to walk even a couple blocks, I remember those days.

    Walking is at the bottom of the list of priorities for most people. In fact, walking is not even on their list.

    When was the last time you heard anybody say, “Oh, I need to get going or I’ll be late for my walk.”


    A lot of people seem to think living in a small town means they will walk a lot. But they probably won’t unless they’re already “walkers.” I’ve walked a lot all my life, and I’ve lived in tiny towns with a handful of people, and in cities with 100s of thousands. I have no recollection of people in those tiny towns walking very far. They drove their cars – everywhere – and they only walked from their car to the store entrance or from their car to the school entrance, etc.

    The reality is most people don’t value walking or biking.

  31. Chihiro November 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    The movie theater I worked at in high school was about an eight minute drive from my house, definitely within walking distance. Before I had my own car I was heavily dependent on my parents for rides, and this was a big problem when my work would send me home early. One day my father wouldn’t pick up the phone so I decided to just walk home. But I couldn’t do that, because getting there would require walking through a small bridge over the freeway, which had no sidewalk and barely enough room for cars to pass. I decided I valued my life more than getting home quickly, and was stuck at the theater for another two hours before someone could get me. What do the people planning these streets have against sidewalks?!

  32. Jessica November 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I work downtown and there is plenty to do within walking distance, so I take advantage of that. My children’s school is a 15 minute drive from my house, so they’d never be able to walk there… and the nearest store is at least several miles away from our house – too far to reasonablly walk to.
    I’m just glad they play outside for hours at aftercare, plus on weekends they play in the yard, and I only use sunscreen if they’re going to be swimming.

  33. Jen Connelly November 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    My 12 year old son has ridden his bike then almost 2 miles to the elementary school a few times last year. Once because he tried to play sick and stay home and we refused to drive him after he missed the bus. I worry more about him getting to the middle school because there isn’t much of a bike lane on the road out there and the speed limit gets up to 50. Plus it’s more like 3 miles (which I know he could do if he wanted).

    My kids walk all over our town. They go to the store a mile away, the library is 2 miles away. They ride their bikes the 3 or so miles to visit a friend that moved and then go to a store that sells cheap candy. My 13yo has walked the 3+ miles from the middle school to the local comic book store with her friend. Our part of the town is pretty walkable. But you get farther north and it’s little subdivisions off of busy streets or the streets to get to them have zero pedestrian access (narrow, winding roads with a hill/cliff climbing on one side and a 20 foot ditch on the other with no bike lane let alone a curb or anything).

  34. Jenny Islander November 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I live in a town that is laid out for walkers* and cyclists, but I have noticed a steep decrease in the number of walkers in the past decade. When I had my first baby (now 9 1/2), I often passed people headed the other way and had a habit of steering the stroller closer to the curb because my baby was better shielded from splashes than a pedestrian. Now I walk to the library with the kids, look one way–nobody–look the other way–still nobody. It’s a shame. Why pay for gas if you could walk?

    I am happy to report, however, that kids do walk home from the nearest school regularly.

    *Funny story: I had no idea how good we had it until I decided to walk to a stationery store in Anchorage, the nearest city-in-Lower-48-terms. It was only half a mile away, true, but that was half a mile on the side of a highway on a bike path that went completely unplowed, so I was postholing through two feet of unbroken snow. Anchorage is a textbook example of a city that couldn’t exist without private cars. You can’t even get from necessary place to necessary place on the bus, it’s all so spread out and jumbled up.

  35. Olivia T November 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    I am happy to say I live in a very walkable area. I can walk one block to a great independent grocery store. There is a high school half a block away. My step son walks about three blocks from his school to our house. There are many great parks in walking distance, three less than a give minute walk away. We live between the downtowns of two cities that have grown together and can walk to either one. Each downtown has a huge park in it. I could walk to work at the University in about 45 minutes but I bike instead.

    I definitely want to stay in this neighborhood! I love its walkability and I make good use of it and encourage the kids to do the same.

  36. Papilio November 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    I’m SO glad I live in a civilised country…!!
    I could walk from any address in my (or any) town to any other address, when it comes to sidewalks. (Okay, I can only think of 1 dedicated pedestrian crossing for the 50mph through-road through town, but that’s because crossing that road usually means your trip is more of a cycling distance. So there are several bike crossings instead.)
    Generally, if people are expected to want to walk from A to B (think neighborhood streets, stores&shops, schools, etc. Note that these streets are never busy throughroutes (anymore)!), there are sidewalks, if the distance means people will rather cycle (crossing a bigger road, between towns), there is cycling provision. (The two don’t exclude each other, nor are they combined.)

    I had to look up ‘rickets’ btw, and how ironic! It’s what over here is generally known as “English disease”…

  37. Reziac November 8, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    I suspect the real culprit is the fad for lowfat milk, causing poorer calcium absorption and utilization (which is what rickets really is).

    As to the exercise thing… well, that can’t hurt either. But rickets is primarily a nutritional deficiency or imbalance (calcium/phosphorus ratio has to be correct for either to be absorbed).

    When you see someone with their knees touching but their feet splayed, so their lower legs form an obvious triangle — that’s what the effect of rickets looks like in an adult.

  38. Reziac November 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    My own funny story (and not about the 15 years I walked to school, starting in kindergarten):

    We have a pool of ATVs here at the ranch. There’s also a stray bicycle. One summer evening I was riding the bike down the gravel road, and another resident passed me on an ATV, hollering, “You shoulda rode one of these!” I hollered back, “Old fogies need exercise!”

  39. Brandy November 8, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    This reminds me of when we went on vacation in Valley Forge Pennsylvania. One of the reasons we picked our hotel was that online it said it was across the street from King of Prussia Mall. We were using public transportation for this trip. What we didn’t realize was that the mall was on the other side of the highway and would entail a two and a half mile walk.

  40. hineata November 8, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    @Wendy – laughed when you referred to 15,000 pop. as a small town. Here that would be a rather large town, not too far off a city (20,000). Economies of scale, and all that…..

    Hubby and I went back to Malaysia for a few weeks recently, and friends were driving us past the area where we used to live. Traffic is always ridiculous in Johor Bahru, and the heat is mind-numbing. Apologies if I have mentioned this before, but we drove along the very busy road where I used to walk the kids in the evening from our shophouse to the pool, and it was a good 3-4km. I don’t remember it being that far, though it was always ridiculously busy, with lots of obstacles to dodge, ‘interesting’ footpaths and a few death-defying intersections. I came home and apologised to my son for putting him through that, LOL, but my point was it is amazing what and where you can walk if you are desperate enough, and man, when it came to pools we were desperate!

    As for our situation now, the girls have just this afternoon biked into the city (only 3 km or so) to collect for the SPCA. We’re very lucky, we have good footpaths etc for walking, and biking is fine too unless it’s blowing a gale.

  41. Randy Garbin November 9, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    We are very lucky. Our elementary school is literally right around the corner, less a quarter-mile away. We live in a small town, only about a square-mile size, just north of Philadelphia. We also have very easy access to a wide ranging transit system. My daughter is nine years old, and I’m very grateful that I can allow her now to walk to and from either with friends or by herself.

  42. JP November 9, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    As James Howard Kunstler is often fond of pointing out….
    If intelligent aliens from distant galaxies finally decided to make contact with our alienated human race, their first distinct impression would probably give them the idea that the premier inhabitants of planet earth was indeed, not human at all, but the private automobile.
    What would give them this impression? Two things above all else. Your average suburban house (where most subservient North American humans live) sports a frontage given over entirely to indoor parking. The space left over for humans resembles servants’ quarters.
    But what would seal the deal is just this: that we have built out our collective habitations in ways suited only to four-wheeled (and occasionally 2 or 3) rolling thunder.
    Simply walking – becomes a nightmare, a vexation of the spirit….just something not done by intelligent beings capable of lucid thought and accountability to consequences.

    For all those who buy the ticket – it’s no big deal, apparently. They don’t give the matter a second thought.
    There are sad individuals scattered throughout society who for whatever reason can’t, don’t or won’t drive.
    But they don’t count.

    Big problem with this. Kids don’t drive. They walk, run, bike and perambulate like bloody blazes. But they don’t drive. Nor will they ever, until of age.
    Long before they get there, they run endless risk of winding up suitable for only the fattest of fat cars. Bad food / no exercise. Walking to a kid used to be an endless adventure. It was just what kids do. No-one ever told them it was good for them. They didn’t care about that in the least. What they cared about a whole lot was the independent mobility and the way that this introduced them to the world they live in.
    We took that away. Apparently kid-friendly and family value got purchased somewhere along the way by Disney, for fun and profit. No-one seemed to notice.
    Take a good look at what we built all over the place, and the proof is kinda hard to miss, no?

  43. DaisyDays November 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Middle school children (grades 7 and 8)in our area cannot get a bus if they live within 2 miles of the school. We drop my daughter off in the morning but she walks home the 1.75 miles every afternoon. I have lived in three different states, 5 different towns and this by far is the most walking and biking friendly. I can walk to two convenience stores, a grocery store, three fast food joints, a hardware store, two churches, a community center, three parks, and a high school within a mile. If I bike, I can get to a mall, a marina, a waterpark, and countless restaurants in 10 minutes. Many stores and most schools have bike racks and a majority of roads have bike lanes or separate paths for bikes.

  44. Papilio November 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    What’s ‘walking distance’ and what’s ‘cycling distance’?

    People living in or close to the center of my town (70 000 people) have pretty much every facility (including train station, dentist, musea and hospital, to give you an idea) within the reach of a 15-20 minute walk.
    The newer housing developments are required to have their own basic facilities, such as a grocery store and primary school on ‘walking distance’.
    Whatever that is. In reality most people cycle everywhere instead, unless they have a reason not to.

  45. Becca November 9, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    At our old house, at the end of the block was our favorite restaurant. It would take more time to drive there then it does to walk but almost every time we’d go someone was amazed that we would walk. (its a small place and you see can the parking lot and us walking in vs driving in) Even when we explained how close we lived they still would just look at us like we were from Mars. I never understood it, why would I drive when its that close?

  46. Tsu Dho Nimh November 10, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    My SO travelled a lot on business, and he remembers several hotels where you could NOT legally leave the hotel except in a vehicle. There were no crosswalks, pedestrian bridges, bicycloe paths or even zip0 lines.

    They wanted to go to a restaurant they could see from one hotel, but there was no way to get there.

  47. Stephanie November 10, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    I’m fortunate enough that the part of town I live in is fairly walkable, under a quarter mile to the nearest school, mile to the playground, bit more than that to various stores, decent sidewalks. Most people in our area aren’t that lucky. Lots of neighborhoods with no sidewalks and much further from what little shopping is available in town. Many don’t even have streetlights, which combines really poorly with the lack of sidewalks for those who want or need to walk at night. I started driving my son’s soccer coach about 4 miles home from practice when I found out she was walking her 3 kids home after dark that far after practices, through neighborhoods that really weren’t all that walkable.

  48. JaneW November 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Keep in mind, the darker your skin is, and the farther north you live, the more time you need outdoors to get adequate Vitamin D. If you’re of Northern European heritage and live in Miami, you can probably get enough by crossing a large parking lot. If you’re of African heritage and live in the north, during the wintertime you actually physically CAN’T get enough from the sun alone, even if you’re outside all day, since you’re presumably covered in clothing. (During the spring/summer, an hour at the beach or park with minimal clothing should do it.)

  49. NicoleK November 10, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    We just moved to Canada last week, and already I am amazed at the city planning that goes on here. Back in the states we had to drive everywhere- there was literally nowhere we could walk or bike to. Here, there are trails, parks, and natural spaces (wooded and steam lots they call them) built right into the towns. I went for a run today and found that my kids could easily walk/bike to multiple playgrounds, a wooded lot, and pond. We can also walk a mile to a great downtown. Now we just have to wait for this Canadian winter to be over and then we can enjoy it all!

  50. mobk November 11, 2013 at 2:06 am #

    1 km to elementary school and also a few small shops. 1.5 km to bigger shops. 2 km to middle school. So easily walkable, but I must say I almost always prefer to hop on my bike and I suspect my kids will as well once they are travelling independently. I regularly bike past the two schools on my way to work or pre-school drop off. I am actually heartened to see how many kids are walking and biking to school even in less than great weather.

    This is in an established neighbourhood in a mid-sized Canadian city

  51. Susanna K. November 11, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    “Is it actually even POSSIBLE for a person (including a young one) to get to the store or the school by foot in your town?”

    Unless you live smack in the middle of downtown, no.

    That’s why I started an advocacy group, the Aiken Sidewalk Appreciation Society, to help people here appreciate the value of walkable areas. That led to an invitation to join the county Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. We’re making recommendations to the county government about how to improve access for cyclists and pedestrians.

    So it isn’t great right now, but I hope that, soon, it will get better.

  52. EB November 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    This is why inner-ring suburbs and livable city neighborhoods can thrive despite higher housing prices. You save a lot on car ownership/use, and life is more pleasant.

  53. Papilio November 11, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    @EB: Ah, so good infrastructure ( = liveability!) increases the value of houses. What a surprise.

    @Susanna K.: Fantastic! Enough people asking for car-INdependency might well be the only way to break free…

  54. Amanda Matthews November 11, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Yep! There are lots of sidewalks, crossing signs and bike paths, and kids can (and do! even in bad weather) walk to school or to the “downtown” area where there are coffee shops, a comic book store, a hobby store, a yarn store (okay, not many kids there but that’s one *I* walk to), a ymca, and more. There’s 3 playgrounds (2 of which are in parks) that my family can walk to. My kids and I use to walk to the library, but unfortunately it moved a little out of our walking radius (we’ll have to work on building up the stamina to walk there) – but still accessible to walk to. There’s a pharmacy and a grocery store that I see a lot of people walking to (I have to get so much at once that I wouldn’t be able to carry it back. I would love to get a bike with a trailer…)

    Leaving town is difficult without a car, though. The closest bus stop requires driving. Being a 1-car family, I would love to be able to get to Chicago completely on public transportation, but there’s just one small blip in it preventing that.

    But, I am thankful for all we have here. It didn’t just fall into our laps – the town wanted these things, wanted sidewalks, bike paths, playgrounds and a thriving downtown of locally owned businesses, so we made it happen.

  55. Papilio November 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    @Amanda: “The closest bus stop requires driving.”

    That sounds like there’s enough left to want…

  56. Papilio November 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    “Results suggest that residents on busy streets have less than one quarter the number of local friends compared to those living on similar streets with little traffic.”

    I know it’s my gazillionth comment on this post, but this oldish (2008) article about how people on quiet streets build communities and people on busy, car-dominated streets don’t (or far less) just fits in so nicely with this topic…

    From the guy himself:
    Article in the Guardian:

  57. Vanessa November 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    I think it’s the classic chicken and the egg dilemma. Is it really poor urban planning or is it consumer driven pressure that creates these unwalkable communities? As a former city planner, I have seen the dilemma between great urban planning ideas and developers and residents that want to drive everywhere and have tons of parking spaces. Meeting those demands don’t usually coincide with creating a walkable community. I choose to live in a urban area that has sidewalks and amenities (library, post office, grocery store, restaurants, train station, bus stop, etc.) within walking distance because I value this sort of lifestyle. Other people choose to live in a car-dominated cities that were built based on different values. The suburbs were not built to be walkable because people didn’t want to walk; they wanted to drive their cars. Now, we are seeing the effects of the suburban lifestyle (obesity, rickets!, etc.) and it’s time for change. But, we can’t blame urban planners. Consumers have to change their values enough that developers and cities can work together to build healthier cities.

  58. Tara November 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    I live in Chicago with my 4 y.o. twin boys. I cherish the few months we have of good weather here and make sure they are outside every second we can get. We even manage to get out in the dead of winter and sled and ice-skate. We do not have a TV in the house or any electronic play device. I own one desk top computer for essential tasks. Needless to say, outdoor activities are a priority.
    I don’t know if I am a 100% Free Ranger. I think I do some things along that philosophy and some no. We just have to be prepared as a family to go up against a whole new parent culture and their laws if you are going to Free-Range.
    My problem is my condo complex called West Park Place. I was raised here in the 70’s and now I am raising my sons here. Most of the owners were here since the 70’s too. Including the Condo Assoc. Board members. When I was small, there were 2 playgrounds on site, kids playing everywhere and going to their friends houses too!
    When the Board took over the complex in the early 90’s they conveniently went through the mind erase as they aged and their children were now grown. They banned children from playing outside, no toys on common elements, ball-playing, bikes, etc… They removed the playgrounds and landscaped everything.
    Apparently, this is not unique. Look around and you will see almost all condos have no children playing on their grounds. They discourage children from playing outside. Children with rickets does not surprise me! Where are all these kids? Inside, thats where! The elderly will use this new parenting philosophy to their advantage when it comes to trying to ban children from playing outside around their home. Very smart too I might add! They didn’t grow up like that and they didn’t raise their kids that way but, just watch how fast they jump on the “no kids playing outside” philosophy so they can attempt to create a senior living environment in a non-senior complex.
    If you own your home and have a yard, great! But, driving through the suburbs I see empty yards all summer long. Children are inside even when they have the yard. It is really sad.

  59. Paula November 18, 2013 at 3:04 am #

    JG Ballard’s book the empire of the sun was semi autobiographical he and his sister and parents survived over two years in an internment camp in the last war, something that had to have a profound effect on him.