The premise of Old Enough!, a Japanese reality show streaming on Netflix is simple. In 10-minute episodes a tiny kid sets off to complete the child’s first errand alone. (Well, “alone,” with the cameramen.)
Get your earbuds ready and go for a walk today and listen to
this podcast episode, First Errand on 99% Invisible, based upon the show.
It’s about everything we want for kids, for everyone on our streets – safety from drivers, and streets designed for human mobility.
Needless to say, the show couldn’t be set in the United States.
Parents who have allowed young kids independence to play alone have been arrested, or at the very least are labeled terrible parents. This paranoia about kids’ safety in general, and especially on our streets says a lot about our culture.
Only 10% of American kids walk to school, compared with over 80% of kids in Japan. Kids start walking to school in Japan at a very early age, because they CAN. Roads and street networks are designed for kids to walk. Drivers in Japan are taught to yield to pedestrians. Speed limits are low. Neighborhoods have small blocks with lots of intersections. And there is little or no street parking in neighborhoods.
Everyone should be able to safely, REALLY safely walk on American streets.
Changing habits is hard. (People used to smoke in restaurants.) Residents and visitors begin to sense something is happening when a city begins to add bike lanes, bump outs for pedestrians, create a road diet to slow cars and calm traffic, build parklets for people, or have an open, car-free event in the streets. All of the above are happening in Asbury Park. Are we ready to reduce or eliminate cars from the center of our city? Maybe not yet…but we are learning that cars are not good for the environment, for public health, or for general quality of life. With the public transit added to the process we may be able to achieve a car-free city center someday.
What happened when Oslo decided to make its downtown basically car-free?
It was a huge success: Parking spots are now bike lanes, transit is fast and easy, and the streets (and local businesses) are full of people.
If you decide to drive in downtown Oslo, be forewarned: You won’t be able to park on the street. By the beginning of this year, the city finished removing more than 700 parking spots–replacing them with bike lanes, plants, tiny parks, and benches–as a major step toward a vision of a car-free city center.
The changes, unsurprisingly, have been met with some resistance, both from car owners and businesses. But while business owners initially worried about the city creating a ghost town that no one would visit, the opposite seems to be true; as in other cities that have converted some streets to pedestrian-only areas, the areas in Oslo that have been pedestrianized are some of the most popular parts of the city, Marcussen says. Last fall, after hundreds of parking spots had been removed, the city found that it had 10% more pedestrians in the center than the year before. “So that is telling me that we are doing something right,” she says.