Traffic and kids don’t mix. That’s something people intuitively understand. Automobile collisions disproportionately kill kids, for starters. Heavy traffic also prevents them from playing on their neighborhood streets. And communities with limited opportunities for walking and playing outside have been shown to have higher rates of childhood obesity, which can lead to serious health complications in later life.
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. A generation ago, urbanist researcher Donald Appleyard showed how heavy traffic in cities erodes human connections in neighborhoods, contributing to feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness. Now his son, Bruce Appleyard, has been looking into how constantly being in and around cars affects children’s perception and understanding of their home territory.