I am German, have lived in the US for 18 years and have raised three children here. I very much miss the German way of being able to let my child go outside by himself, or walk anywhere from our home. I find the infrastructure very car oriented.
Distances, as well as property sizes are considerably larger, thus there is hardly any bike paths, but 80% large roads. Hey, even a small town has double the width roads that you would find in any German town, so traffic is much more unpleasant. The sight is usually anything but inviting if I compare it to bike paths I know from back home. Same for distances, with everything just soooo stretched out.
I do see very gratefully a movement here in the US by architects, trying to rethink communities and how to build them more “inhabitants friendly.” Car joy is not everything. Community is built by people passing each other in the streets, by NEIGHBORhoods, not “stranger”hoods. I never felt so disconnected from other people as I do here in my life in the US. And I do believe the way communities are built plays a BIG role in this.
Also having more green spaces everywhere, planting trees along roads (the green lung has always been a respected issue in German city planning), reducing distances between people, or at least creating social areas within any of these neighborhoods. Also, how about a playground, WITH nature: shrubs, trees, boulders, tree stumps, etc – not only school playgrounds – incorporated in all those estranged neighborhoods? It would draw people back out and together, and help overcome the hurdle of keeping your children from going by themselves into the “unknown”.
Make sure to check out the reader comments at the end of the article!