The Importance of Childcare Within Walking Distance

In honor of International Walk to School Day, we’re going to look at a post from Minnesota’s Twin Cities about what you might call Wouldn’t It Be Great If You Could Walk Your Kid to Preschool Day.

Streetsblog Network member Net Density makes the excellent point that for parents of preschool-age children, having childcare within a quarter-mile of their homes can be the make-or-break factor in whether they choose an active commute (by foot, bike, or transit).

After some impressive number-crunching, the blog’s author comes up with the conclusion that only between 13 and 16 percent of people in Minneapolis-St. Paul live within that distance of adequate childcare options. Which makes for a planning challenge:

2CCBlocks_300x231.jpgMost people don’t make housing decisions based on child care
access, so depending on what you can afford, and where you want to
locate, good child care access may or may not be available in your area.

So as planners and policy makers trying to leverage the multiple
benefits of a non-auto commute (health, environmental, social), what
role do we have in trying to improve this access? Or, in other words,
how can we address this barrier and allow more people to get active? What tools can we use to do so?

Anyone out there want to step forward with some ideas? We’re listening.

More from the network: Cincy Streetcar Blog has an excellent photo essay that makes a case against Issue 9, an anti-passenger rail initiative on the ballot in that city this fall. Bicycle Ambassadors demonstrates some justified pride about Philadelphia’s bike commute numbers. And Portlandize takes on the question of who pays for bike infrastructure — and auto infrastructure.

  • Rob

    When I was a kid I lived within the above radius, but my parents wouldn’t let me walk until I was in 8th grade. Why? The route required crossing a major arterial with heavy traffic, lots of lanes, and fast moving cars. Point is.. in the suburbs, it’s not just about distance, it’s also about the poor design that makes for potentially dangerous walks.

  • Beverley Smith

    There are conflicting currents here. Yes it would be great for a child to be near home or alternatively near where the parent is which in some cases may be where the parent is at paid work all day. This permits parents to drop in at lunch or in emergency. Yes it would be good if kids could at the daycare have the same friends as are already their neighborhood playmates. Yes it would be good to save on gas costs if parents could walk with the child and yes it would be great to examine nature, collect leaves, pick up an ice ream on the way.

    But you will get a lot of argument against this from several quarters. One is those parents who actually prefer to drop off the child early and pick the child up late because they have long paid work days and need long daycare. If they can get a bus to pick up the child and ferry the child to and from this also uses up some of the time they are not able to be with the child and is convenient for them as a babysitter. You will also get a lot of heat from big chain daycares that want to discourage small mom and pop independent neighborhood ones because they want to own all daycare services themselves. They actively want to discredit and put out of business the smaller operations and they may even insult the quality of these friendly neighborhood centres, or dayhomes as having less trained staff, not meeting their inspection or regulation standards however they define them.

    You will also get objections from big labor unions that often represent the workers at the large chain daycares, because they prefer that all workers join their union and pay union fees and they will make wild claims that only their union members are competent early educators, or trained professionals. Big unions have huge budgets to lobby government with and they can make the case that children should all be in their ‘childcare ‘ centres or else the children lose out – so governments may direct funding naively to only those big centres. That is happening in Canada and apparently in some other countries.

    In my opinion parents should have an equally funded wide range of care options, not just the small daycare or large daycare but even the grandma, sitter, nanny, dad or mom at home options. There are huge movements against having this wide a range though because big daycare chains for sure would feel they’d lose out on a guaranteed clientele. And yet I believe that kids have the right to appropriate care for their own needs and parents have the right to choose where that happens. If there is any common ground it is for parents to stand up for choice – and the small or large daycares, the neighborhood or far away chains, are only two of several options we should all stand up for. This is a democracy.

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