Dortmund citizens given the chance to ‘reclaim the streets’

Dortmund in Germany is one of the latest cities to give residents the chance to ‘reclaim the streets’ – and in doing so helping keep children safe.

City authorities have announced new measures designed to let local people control their streets as public spaces, transforming them into public spaces available to all.

The municipality says that before urban areas gave in to pressure and let cars take over the streets, these areas used to be a place for everyone to meet, and for children to just run around freely and play. Streets, it adds, were ‘vibrant spaces’ where communities grew.

It points to the increase in cars on the roads after the end of the Second World War, which led to pedestrians and traffic becoming increasingly segregated, through sidewalks and parks. Gradually, it adds, streets became the ‘exclusive domain’ of the car, a development that also made sense for those making the laws, as more and more people turned to cars.

And so in an attempt to get back to those original ideals, city leaders are making it possible for local people to apply to the council to get their own communal space – if only for a few months. Until the end of October, people can petition to the city’s Youth Welfare Office, which has been given powers to close a street closure for up to one day.

Child-friendly initiatives of this type are fast becoming a way for local authorities across the world to promote their cities as places where young people and their families can feel more protected from the dangers posed by traffic, while also protecting the environment.

Notable examples include that of Oregon, USA, where the Safe Routes to School programme enables school districts to apply for grants for projects to encourage and make possible safer ways for children to get to and from school, whether on foot or by bike.

In London meanwhile, the borough of Hackney has rolled out its School Streets programme to some 40 schools, after successfully bidding for around £350,000 funding from the Government. The scheme helps to reclaim roads outside schools from traffic, improve air quality around schools and make it easier for children to travel to school and home again.

Author: Simon Weedy

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