Nobody saw it coming (Well almost nobody)

Netherlands Amsterdam civic action block street to cars filmTwo decades after the end of the Second World War,  a totally unexpected pattern was surreptitiously taking over cities across Europe, as each day more cars were being put on the road — and in the process began to unceasingly take over and threaten  public space and quality of life  in city after city. There it was plain for all to see, and yet few cities were prepared to take on the challenge. The metastasis was so grindingly persistent and so day by day that it simply seemed to be an inevitable part of the less desirable edge of Europe’s  new and hard-won prosperity. And after all, who can be against progress?  Certainly not most politicians.

But here and there, starting already in the late sixties, individual citizens and civil society groups opened their eyes and began to understand that it was time past to take on the challenge. And that this seemingly inevitable menace could be stopped in its tracks.

There are stories of how these actions played themselves out in many European cities — Dutch, Danish, German, Swiss, Finnish, Swedish leading the way — and even a few here in France. Here is one that comes from Amsterdam and that we share with you thanks to Pascal van den Noort and Velo Mondial, who passed this along from a story entitled “Amsterdam children fighting cars in 1972” put  online by Bicycle Dutch – .

Here we are today, a full generation later, and the challenges and the stakes from these same problems are even greater than ever.  I would say that we have a great deal to learn from the past. So let’s start today by listening to the voices of several children on the streets of Amsterdam in 1972.

* For more from World Streets on citizen-centric mobility reform –

You also may want to check out  the short film, How the Dutch failed to destroy their cities –

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Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and international sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport - . | Britton online:

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