“Taking back the streets” has been a familiar call over recent days. The brief dominance of younger members of our society rampaging through the roads and alleyways across England recently has certainly caused a stir and much debate often using the analogy of a disease – thus far producing a great deal of heat but little light in terms of prevention and cure. The idea of “taking back the streets” is actually not that new. It has been used many times before, predominantly as a method of forcing authorities to account for actions and sometimes atrocities that were perceived to be hidden by their Governments and rulers and as a way of promoting human rights. As such the ability to take to the streets remains a potentially powerful tool in societies whether democratic or not.
Another “take back the street” initiative involves a (usually peaceful) rebellion against the pervasive demands of the internal combustion engine. One recent and successful example in Bristol has been the playing out initiative. Here local residents close local roads after school to through traffic and let children play outside more or less unsupervised. The right to play is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and this model allows children to develop their own methods of play without rigid supervision of organisation. As well as simply increasing the opportunities for activity, this approach is likely to help with development of social skills for the children and it also may encourage a sense of community amongst the adults in the street. Adults are only needed to control local traffic so they have more opportunities to meet their neighbours and engage in conversation. Interestingly this approach has led to a renaissance in “old-fashioned” activities such as street games requiring skipping ropes, chalk, footballs and non-motorised scooters. The idea of encouraging children back onto the local street to play with their peers is spreading – only recently this particular initiative has been awarded the “prize” of being a news item on Radio 4’s PM programme.
David Kerr wears many hats, sometimes at the same time – Diabetologist, editor of Diabetes Digest, researcher, and founder of VoyageMD.com, a free service for travellers with diabetes. He has received consultancy fees and honoraria for participating in advisory boards for Medtronic, Roche, Lifescan, and Abbott Diabetes Care. He also holds a small amount of stock in CellNovo (a new insulin pump company) and Axon Telehealth.