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Children’s Streets: a unifying project to increase public awareness of green means of transport

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par Elsa Sidawy | 11.22.11

Children are users like any others. It is an obvious fact that car manufacturers have gotten hold of: more than 90% of mobility-related advertisements show four-door saloons and convertibles while less than 10% show bikes or public transport. Enough to condition our children in their earliest years.

In order to fight this damning assessment, the ARENE (Agence Régionale de l’Environnement et des Nouvelles Energies: Regional Agency for the Environment and New Energies) has been developing and supporting the “Bambini” project since June 2009 in the Ile-de-France region. Supported by the “Intelligent Energy for Europe” programme, the idea is to “start working contrary to car hyper-socialisation in order to encourage both children and parents to use green means of transport in future,” Céline Meunier, mobility project manager at the ARENE, explains. In other words: to influence future adults’ choices of means of transport by taking action with their parents.


A Home Zone in Suresnes

Children’s streets in France
The aim of introducing the use of environment-friendly means of transport into young children’s and their parents’ lives is to encourage them to use alternatives to cars.  In the Ile-de-France region, this European project is mainly focused on Home Zones and Children’s Streets. While the former are now legal since they have been introduced in the Highway Code, Children’s Streets are occasional operations that require residents’ involvement or at least participation.

What is a Children’s Street exactly? It consists in a day when the street is closed to vehicular traffic in order to allow children to play outside and to “recreate emotions that they will later associate with active modes. We are trying to include emotions in active modes.” During that day, various theme-related workshops and activities are set up: “the method consists in encouraging physical activity through play.” On the agenda: a fitness trail for children aged between 3 and 6 (scooters and bikes provided), an organic farming stall held by a Community-Supported Agriculture Association, wooden toys, a colouring stall and a “Hello Doctor Bike” workshop that seems to win first place. The first Children’s Street that took place in Bois-le-Roi last June gathered about sixty adults and one hundred children.


Children’s street set up in Bois-le-Roi in June 2011

Civic participation
At the heart of the project lies civic participation to turn these initiatives into successes and encourage involved participants and organisations to repeat the operation. Suresnes (in the Hauts-de-Seine Department) and Bois-le-Roi (in the Seine-et-Marne Department) are the first local authorities that came forward. Colombes might soon join the movement. Local authorities are supported by the ARENE and partner organisations but also meet on a regular basis to discuss good practices in Home Zones and Children’s Streets. “The aim is to develop these two operations in a participative mode.

The ARENE promised to create seven permanent Home Zones and at least two Children’s Streets by the end of the programme, in June 2012. Finally, Bambini will lead to the creation of a toolbox for French and European authorities. “A way to make room for children in residential districts again,” Claire Meunier concludes.

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Photos credits: ARENE Ile-de-France - Christophe Petit-Tesson

Translated by Oona Bijasson

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