Space & Privacy: The Safety Illusion

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I get it. You have a family now and it’s a tough call to make but the most obvious thing to do is to find the right place at the right price. Depending on how much the budget is, most people will strive for space, privacy and safety. Specifically in the GTA, the suburbs from Saint Catharines to Bowmanville have become the obvious choice for most young families moving into or beginning new milestones in their lives.

If the goal is to own, it is simply impossible to find an affordable place to live downtown that is spacious enough for the family to live comfortably. I always hear this. ”You’ll see, you just don’t understand now because you’re young and single. When you grow up you will buy a car and you will want to be away from everyone and everything. It’s safer. It’s more peaceful.”

I’m now 25 and although I don’t have any plans for a family in my near future, my ideals have remained the same. In fact, they have been proven to me in the city, by people I know who have stayed there after having children, in a humble space, renting, and raising their children in a quiet, safe neighborhood where all their needs are within walking distance, around the corner, or accessible by transit.

I will never forget the day I was driving up a residential side street off West Queen West a couple of years ago, and a child no older than 6 years old was biking up to the T-intersection and was about to cross the road. We both stopped at our stop signs. He made direct eye contact with me, and held his gaze as though nothing would change that, as though his life depended on it.

And it did.

City kids learn a different kind of safety than the suburb kids. I don’t really want to hear about how much safer it is for kids to live in the suburbs due to less traffic. Because city kids actually know how to handle it, and suburban drivers are less likely to watch out for the people in their way. Because there’s less witnesses, and too many people in their own space. They draw lines around their spaces with fences. They want to be separate. What would happen if someone were to kidnap me? Who would see?

I read an article recently on one of my favorite blogs, City Lab that stated that city noise is related to a number of serious health hazards such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, stress and hearing problems. I understand how certain people might have experienced certain circumstances after living in the city that might relate to those problems. But I find it far fetched, and honestly quite annoying that these studies have made it a point to relate the joys of city life with such deadly hazards. Are we seriously going to pretend that living around and interacting with other people (especially strangers) is not one of the most natural and healthy means towards positive mental health? Are we seriously going to pretend that being surrounded by city noise is going to give someone high blood pressure? I don’t know, it might give you a rush, a pulse, the realization that you are alive and part of something bigger.

Space? Privacy? That scares me. People shouldn’t want to be isolated.

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I feel at peace when I hear the streetcar pass by my window, because it reminds me that I am home, part of my neighborhood, and part of my city. I am reminded that I am surrounded by other human beings. I am reminded that, around me, there are ways to get around and places to go. That means that where I am has significance.

And I don’t know about you, but those noises? Now that’s what helps me sleep at night!!

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