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Cul-de-sac Kids

Previous research indicates that adults who live on cul-de-sac streets are more likely to have positive experiences with neighbors than residents of other street types (Brown and Werner, 1985; Hochschild Jr, 2011; Mayo Jr, 1979; Willmott, 1963). The present research ascertains whether street design has an impact on children’s neighborhood experiences. The author interviewed 73 adults who live on cul-de-sacs and 37 adults who live on through-streets (N = 110) to determine adults’ understandings of children’s neighborhood experiences. The data reveal three primary benefits for children raised on cul-de-sacs. First, because cul-de-sacs tend to be territorial streets, parents are more likely to let their children play outside unattended under the watchful eyes of neighbors. These neighbors provide a social safety net for cul-de-sac children and their friends. Second, because they are aware that they are likely being watched, cul-de-sac children are less likely to partake in deviant activities while on their street. The author refers to this internalized form of self-discipline as street panopticism. Third, the low traffic levels on cul-de-sacs create greater opportunity for uninterrupted play, thus drawing cul-de-sac kids outside for individual and group recreation. The author argues that cul-de-sacs, as well as other low-traffic streets, can enhance children’s neighborhood experiences and create more vibrant neighborhoods.