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Car-dominated streets damage kids 

In an excellent Conversation article, Mischa Ketchell discusses the decline of cities as spaces for children and the joyous ‘Kidical Mass’ community pushback. Across Europe, streets are being reclaimed for a day as community spaces for walking and cycling. This in turn is persuading local governments and planners to reassess streets for people rather than just cars.

Thousands of children take to the streets in Barcelona (Source:

The harm is physical, environmental and psychological. And it’s long-term 

80% of our urban spaces are car-dominated. Apart from being ugly and bad for business, they’re extremely dangerous for pedestrians and bicycle riders. Simply put, streets that put traffic first and pedestrians last are deadly, and zero fun. Especially for kids.

 ”Children’s autonomous movement and play in cities has steadily declined in recent decades. In turn, children and young people are increasingly sequestered in homes, cars or institutional spaces for adult-controlled education and play,” explains Mischa Ketchell.

Car-dependency has led to alarming inactivity levels. As a result, 25% of Australian children and 67% of Australian adults are now overweight or obese. Which creates a massive national health burden. Also, Australian children and young people are more likely to face death or disability from traffic violence than any other premature death. Even cancer

Happy participants in Bareclona’s first Kidical Mass ride in August 2022.
Kidical Mass, Barcelona)

Mobile phone use and headphones are not the problem

Repeat - not the problem. This is an unsubstantiated distraction from what’s needed. Because blaming pedestrian behaviour for crashes ignores evidence that the major culprit is speed. And decades of bad planning.

Mosman Councillor Libby Moline getting it so wrong about about kids and mobile phones
Mosman Daily

What is needed now?

An impatient, joined-up approach, not policies without action

In NSW we have the Road User Space Allocation and Providing for Walking and Cycling policies which are great. Because they prioritise active transport over cars. But because they’re not legislated, they’re ignored. Another law we’re suggesting to improve driver behaviour is presumed liability. 

If we continue asking nicely via the usual channels, our children will be on aged pensions before road space is fairly allocated. Or live shorter, unhappier lives. Therefore, we need a joined up approach that goes straight to key decision makers.

Better Streets - a powerful, persuasive coalition of community groups

Better Streets is a coalition of planners, advocates, community groups, pedestrian and bicycle groups that are working to support local and state governments roll back 70 years of car-centric planning.

The group has launched in New South Wales using a model developed in the UK and aims to supercharge the process of reclaiming street space for walking and cycling in our cities and towns.

Bicycle NSW has joined the Better Streets coalition as it gains pace across NSW and we’re asking you to join with us.  After all, what is better for our streets is also better for bike riding.  And of course, our children.

Children were a big part of the inaugural Better Streets ride in Sydney, March 2023.
(Source: Better Streets)

Join our Better Streets campaign for safe, healthy, people-friendly, climate-friendly streets. 

Join Bicycle NSW now and support our bike advocacy. Find out about our advocacy campaigns here. We’ve also got great legal and insurance cover.

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Your EOFY tax-deductable donation will accelerate our campaigns for healthier, safer, more accessible streets that tackle climate change, improve cost of living and support active kids. Bicycle NSW has been campaigning for safe, accessible bicycle infrastructure for almost 50 years.

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