We read this excellent piece by Barry Greene about making cities more kid-friendly, and asked Brian Crawford to think about ways to make our own towns more kid-friendly. He came up with these seven suggestions.
I’m a father of two, a two year old and a five month old and I’m excited for them to grow up so we can spend even more time outside and fully utilize all of the parks and recreation that Carrboro & Chapel Hill have to offer. Since they are still young, there’s still time to implement some great intentional improvements to make our towns even more kid-friendly!
1. Adding more shade to parks
Adding additional shade elements to parks that currently do not have this or are waiting for tree cover to grow would help many families be able to utilize these parks more often and for longer periods of time.
One of our favorite parks in Carrboro is Wilson Park specifically because during the summer the sand-pit and most of the play-structures are shaded at all hours. Chapel Hill’s Southern Community Park is a relatively new park has no shade on any of the play structures and is a scorcher during the summer. The playground at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market has a wonderful shaded canopy that really reduces the temperature and makes it easier for kids to play.
2. Adding more public restrooms to public spaces
Chapel Hill and Carrboro do have good options for public restrooms around parks and other planned recreation areas but there’s a significant gap for publicly accessible restrooms in the downtown areas.
This means families visiting downtown are required to pay for something if they just need to stop into a private area for a diaper change or for a kid who can’t hold it anymore to use the restroom. The completion of the 203 Project will help Downtown Carrboro with this.
3. Closing off East Weaver Street to cars
We often are playing on the green space in front of Weaver Street Market but have to constantly be guarding the little ones from passing over the small barrier and into traffic. During Open Street Day each year, the street in front of Weaver Street is closed off to cars and it’s truly transformative for people of all ages. Plus, other towns have experimented with public seating, and the parking lots behind the current police station could be turned into a small linear pathway to the new library, making it easy for people to walk back and forth between the library and our downtown business district.
This change would have positive benefits for the community and also the businesses, people oriented streets are more productive per acre than streets that are built for cars.
4. Allowing retail or coffee shops in neighborhoods
Our towns are relatively small, geographically, but most of us still need to jump in a car to get milk or diapers or have a cup of coffee. Zoning restrictions prohibit small format retail from being built in our neighborhoods. If you have to get in your car every time you need to pick up emergency diapers or have a cup of coffee, that’s problematic. In Richmond, VA, for instance, some neighborhoods have coffee shops, restaurants, and quick-marts within walking distance of residents, which is great for families who are looking to reduce their car footprint.
5. Build the bus rapid transit in Chapel Hill
One of my friends put it this way, “I have absolutely experienced the difficulty of boarding a shuttle bus with a toddler in one hand and a folded stroller in the other.” The lack of space on our existing bus network makes transporting a child in a stroller an ordeal: You have to unstrap them, take them out, put them in a seat, fold the stroller and then on the other end you have to unfold the stroller and beg them to get back into the stroller! It’s a minutes long process most of the time, being able to roll-on and roll-off public transit with a stroller would be a huge benefit to families with small children.
That’s why I’m so excited about the bus rapid transit project in Chapel Hill. The buses are expected to have room for strollers — and many other additional benefits for residents.
6. Protected bike lanes
Imagine being able to bike, roll or walk down all of the roads in Carrboro without fear of being hit by a car. You would be able to bike with your kids of any age, your parents, friends and feel just as safe as you do now on one of the greenways around town. This has the added benefit of enabling safer routes to schools for kids, safer routes to shopping, and other businesses around town.
7. Expanding our greenway networks in both towns
Expanding and building an interconnected greenway would be transformative for our towns. Paving the greenway in Carrboro will make it possible for parents to bring strollers on the greenway, and make the entire network ADA compliant. Also, it will help us transfer many of our 1-3 mile car trips into bike or walking trips. And it will build our kids’ independence because it will connect many of our schools.
You can read 76 additional reasons the connected greenways are good for our towns here.
These are just a few of the ways the towns of Carrboro & Chapel Hill would help grow in a kid friendly way. Have some other ideas on how to make our towns even more kid friendly? Hit me up on Twitter; @ImBrianCrawford or Threads @Im_Brian_Crawford