How many children do you see playing in your street? I live in a cul de sac that is about 200m long and I have never see a child playing on the street and I almost never see children cycling. Even in the 1980s, when I was growing up in Christchurch, we would often play in our quiet street with the traditional yell of “car” scattering us all out of the way. Now it seems streets are only for the movement of tin boxes at the maximum speed possible.

De Pijp before - does the streetscape look familiar?
De Pijp before – does the streetscape look familiar?

This article on the excellent Bicycle Dutch blog explains how the children in the Pijp, an old part of Amsterdam with narrow streets, campaigned to be allowed to play on their streets again. It includes a cut down version of a 1972 documentary showing how the children of De Pijp protested (with the help of many adults) to

transform De Pijp into an area where children could play:

De Pijp now - where the children can play
De Pijp now – where the children can play

The interesting thing for me too is that the number of people living in the area has more than halved – so the density of the area (although high by NZ standards) wasn’t a deciding factor in transforming the streets – only a change of culture and expectations of motorists. You can see in the video too that motorists did not at first accept the changes. However now there is no call in the Netherlands to go back to the dark days of automobile dominance.

How does New Zealand rate internationally in terms of children dying in road accidents? Not well:

Among the 24 OECD countries with road user death rates by age, New Zealand (with Greece and Poland) had the highest death rate for children under 15 years. At 2.6 deaths per 100,000,  it was double the OECD median of 1.3. New Zealand also had the highest rate for 15–17 year olds, with 15.0 deaths per 100,000, more than double the OECD median of 7.3.

Dutch children - not only safer and slimmer but happier
Dutch children – not only safer and slimmer but happier

How does this contrast with the Netherlands? I think abysmally is the only adverb that springs to mind:

What does this say about NZ’s priorities? Is our pride at being a great place for children well founded?

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