Here's an ingenious heuristic for evaluating the livability of a neighborhood: can a kid get to a store on her own, buy a popsicle, and get home again before it melts? It comes from a Vancouver, BC planning official's presentation at the 2003 New Partners for Smart Growth conference in New Orleans.
He went on with a series of slides showing a neighboring child from his downtown building taking to the streets, visiting a shop, playing in a tot lot. I remember being quite inspired by the idea and I imagine others were too, as it wasn't too much later that "the popsicle test" — the ability of an 8 year old to safely get somewhere to buy a popsicle, then make it home before it melts — became the go-to elevator speech for a lot of New Urbanists making their case.
Now jump ahead to 2011. Just last week, in fact. Doing some work in Canada, I stumbled into a conversation on "the Vancouver model" — typically characterized by the pencil-thin towers that brought new density, and new life, to Vancouver's revitalizing streetscapes — when something funny happened. "If you were to ask Larry Beasley (the city's former planning director) today, in retrospect, what he sees as the biggest shortcoming of his legacy there," someone said, "he would say it was the failure to bring kids downtown."
(via Free Range Kids)