They are a far cry from Robert Doisneau’s clichés of children playing carefree in the street, walking on the pavement on their hands and looking for bread like grown-ups. In recent decades, for parents, the street has become the place of all dangers. So much so that everywhere in Europe, the autonomy of movement of children has decreased considerably since the end of the 1990s.
It is on the basis of this observation that in 2015, a collective of associations (the national association of councils for children and young people, the Cafézoïde, the street of the future and Vivacité Île-de-France) decided to bring out, support and accompany “Streets for children” initiatives, particularly in working-class neighborhoods. These events inspired by the play-streets that have developed in New York and the United Kingdom aim to allow children to play in the temporarily closed street, in complete safety.
This Sunday, for the first time, Bagneux is closing part of one of its main axes to traffic to organize a “Street for children, street for all”. “Two years ago we won the call for projects from the national collective “Rue aux enfants, rue pour tous”, it’s a kind of label that requires very precise specifications with the organization of entertainment and games for children in a street usually open to traffic; it was postponed due to the Covid, ”explains Estelle Garçon from the Collective of Alternative and Citizen Resources (CRAC) in Bagneux.
150 “streets for children” created in France
Thus, from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., avenue Henri Barbusse (between 10 and the Madeleine pharmacy) will be closed to motor vehicles to allow the youngest to discover their environment, the street, in complete safety and in peace. and to appropriate the public space in a fun and festive way. Many associations of the city, will propose animations all along this course of more than 300 m. Circus arts, cycling, skateboarding or even wheelchairs, petanque area, reading, catering, archery, boxing, martial arts, percussion workshops, but also gardening or discovering the plants that grow on the sidewalks…
“We had the idea of organizing this during the inauguration of the avenue which had been closed for a very long time for the metro project. The event will allow people to meet their neighbors and children to get in touch with their street in a different way. Because it’s not just a question of autonomy, it’s also showing them that we can do something other than video games, that with a piece of chalk, we can have fun, do hopscotch, that if you look carefully, you will discover wild plants, you can play jump rope, there are plenty of things that can be done in the street at a lower cost and while being active…” emphasizes Estelle Garçon.
In the department, the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux has been a pioneer in developing an annual program of “Streets for children” since 2017. Nanterre has also organized them in 2021. Since 2019, around twenty events of this type have were organized in Île-de-France. Other independent initiatives have also emerged, such as in Boulogne-Billancourt which has taken to pedestrianizing Boulevard Jean-Jaurès since 2016.
“We launched three calls for projects in 2015, 2017 and 2019 which enabled more than 150 Children’s Streets to be produced in France given the frequent renewal of initiatives from one year to the next. In addition, many initiatives have been able to take place, apart from the call for projects, on a regular basis, in particular in Paris and Lille”, rejoices the collective in a press release.
A new pedestrian and vegetated mall inaugurated this Saturday
The temporary lane created between rue Gabriel-Cosson and rue Jean-Longuet, during the closure of avenue Henri-Barbusse linked to work on the line 4 metro, has been completely planted. This new René-Rousseau mall is inaugurated this Saturday from 2 p.m. with initiations and sports demonstrations. It will serve as a green link between Parc Robespierre (revitalized at the end of work on line 15) and Square du 19 mars 1962 via Parc Cosson. 40 trees, including fruit trees, 500 shrubs and 4,000 perennials and grasses were planted. A pedestrian – cycle path crosses it and to calm traffic around the mall, the speed of adjacent streets will be limited to 30 km/h. This site, which will host sports equipment as well as ping-pong tables, has been labeled “Terre de jeux” for the next Olympic Games.