Car-less Suburbs and Children in the Streets – Sorrel

One day in class we discussed the issue of having children in the streets. Years ago, it was a sign of a healthy street and a safe neighborhood. Since then, however, we agreed that children in the streets is a sign of negligent parents and, well, chaos. And even if it’s theoretically fine to have children unsupervised in a socially safe public space, what if they got hit by a car driving by?! Even in the Suburbs, children should be in backyards, not front yards, where the separation of yard and road allows cars to speed. A run away ball at the wrong moment could mean a serious accident or the death of a child.

Well, fear no more, a suburb in Freiburg (southern Germany) has found a solution. Called Vauban, the neighborhood used to be a military space in WWII but has since been totally re-built as a rather up-scale neighborhood– without cars. Due to Vauban’s long and narrow shape, every person has easy access to public transportation, and for weekend ski trips and Ikea runs, there are community cars to loan out. Parents feel secure knowing that their children are out and about in the neighborhood because of the lack of automobile traffic, and the children can enjoy the sort of freedom that most kids can only dream about from a car seat. Vauban has been called a children’s paradise because of this. I think that in addition to the obvious safety of having less fast-moving traffic, bicycle commuting is more personal and allows for easy interpersonal connections which further strengthen the community and make it more safe.

Another unique aspect of Vauban is its lack of zoning: in order to make resources more accessible to residents, schools, banks and grocery stores are interspersed amongst the houses. This aspect of urban life, along with children in the streets, is currently seen as chaos. However, reactions to Vauban are overwhelmingly positive and add support to Jane Jacob’s theories about safety and her disapproval of modern zoning and ideas of chaos and order. The article also discussed, however, what little success the ideals of Vauban have had in the United States. People here are extremely reluctantto give up their perceived “car freedom”, and in some places the 1950’s idea that owning a house and car equals the American Dream is still going strong.

I highly recommend that you read this article, but if you don’t have the time, do check out the slideshow, which has the information neatly summarized and beautiful pictures, to boot. Enjoy!

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