My mornings can be wild, between the kids and planning for rush hour. It is a constant negotiation and parenting improv. It usually starts at 7am, hustling the 6 year old Audrey and my pre-teen step son Boston into the SUV. In the United States, education comes with the obsession of sports and home projects, that can make getting to school a family adventure (for better or worse). I end up driving them to school quite often, adding to my commute, to make sure they get to school on time.
Waze has made it easy to discover the A to B to C to D logistics of the scenario, and my route is already saved and planned. Of course It’s rush hour, the schools aren’t far - but they are inconvenient... Then it is my turn to get to work. Oh great, an accident on my route, makes my commute take twice as long. I briefly wonder if I should just do a detour (and get some coffee).. How do we win the Commuting Olympics? What does the obstacle course in the future look like and how do we train for it.
My tale is not unique, and it is a snapshot of the problems the average Urban Core family faces on their day to day commute. As the Urban Core grows in density, the issues only compound, distances seem longer, time drags on, complexity makes it harder to get day to day needs completed. I spent some time doing secondary research on different constellations of taking kids to school across the world in different Urban Cores, I discovered some interesting difference in Germany, Japan, and Scandinavia; With some clear parallels in Australia and the UK.
In Germany, children are very aware of and respectful to the rules of the road and often travel to school and play in groups without adult supervision even at a young age. There is more of a community effort around teaching children compliance, as adults not related to the children will confront a child not acting appropriately reminding them of compliance. Thus, living up to the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child”.
In Tokyo for instance, children are left to make their way through various forms of public transportation in order to run errands for their families and make their way to school everyday at very young ages and often alone.
Large dense cities in India have a well documented issue of overcrowded streets, causing dramatic inefficiencies in travel around the densest area of the cities, like Mumbai. Some streets of which are too small to allow larger public transport vehicles to traverse, which are difficult to make changes to.
Due to lack of transportation infrastructure, some children walk miles to attend schools, often in groups with no adult supervision.
In Scandinavian countries, it is quite common for children to ride bikes to school, as well as their extracurricular and recreational activities without adults, and often in fairly long distances, like 2-4 miles.
Australia & UK:
However, in contrast, in Australia, UK, and much of the United States due to concerns of victimization and traffic dangers, parents often accompany their children to school and rarely let them venture out for recreation unaccompanied. Some experts even believe this is hindering children’s ability to form basic problem solving skills.
The obstacles families in the Urban Core face vary considerably all over the world. Mobility for families has strong societal and cultural differences. These differences have to be addressed in order to better create viable solutions for the families in the Urban Core.
In those countries as well, in opposition to the community nature of Germany, adults do not take the same agency for fear of being considered a predator for talking to a child that does not know them. This “stranger danger” approach has created a negative world view for young children, a sense of mistrust that plays well in those children’s futures, as well as limits social education at young ages. In simple context, in certain cities where children are given more freedom for figuring out their own commute, mobility options that are not family-owned automobile based options like bikes and public transport are relied upon heavily, not just for the children but the parents. In cities and regions where parents transport their children up until much later ages, the reliance on automobiles causes issue with even higher traffic dangers, infrastructure inadequacies and roadway congestion. The latter situation creates a crippling downward spiral, especially in light of the emerging urban boom that is currently taking place.
How do you see the future of family mobility in the Urban Core? Join us in the brainstorm running now, and tell us your story.