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Self-Reliance Grows in the Utrecht Traffic Garden

In the Dutch city of Utrecht, kids start learning about traffic safety long before they prepare for a driver's license. And not just "look both ways before you cross the street."

The school curriculum includes regular field trips to the local "traffic garden." The City of Utrecht has used this facility, a streetscape in miniature, to teach kids the rules of the road since the 1950s. Students take turns as cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers, learning how to take other types of street users into consideration. The hands-on experience navigating the traffic garden gives kids the skills and confidence to get around the city under their own power as soon as their early teens.

<p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Ronald Tamse:</i>  [00:05] We are here in our local traffic garden.  This was created in the 50s for education purpose because a lot of children had problems in traffic safety just in the years after the second world war.  It already exists over 50 years, and it’s really worth having all the young children from primary schools come here once or twice a year.  The children first arrive here and get small class and go outside.  The group’s split up in three parts, one part is driving the small cars, the second group is cycling and the third group is walking.  After 15 or 20 minutes they change groups.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Daan Van Den Heuvel:</i>  [01:00] I work from three years in the traffic garden.  I give lesson in traffic in theory and practical for all the children for the basic school.  This year I get 6400 kids.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Speaker:</i>  [01:14] I’m a teacher for orientation mobility training for partially sighted children.  I bring them in here because it’s much smaller here.  A real roundabout is much too big for them, they can’t see the overview, and here we can practice what they do on a roundabout.  What we did here today was when one traffic light is red, what is the other colour?  Oh, when this one is green, the other one is red and here you can recognise it.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Ronald Tamse:</i>  [01:50] Children who come to this traffic garden are mostly in the age of 10 or 11 years, and what you see in the Netherlands is that at this age they are almost finished with their primary school.  One or two years later they start cycling all across the city to their secondary school.  That’s why it’s so important they come to this traffic garden and experience in small the situations which they will see when they go to the secondary school.  And I have the experience last year with my own daughter, she passed her traffic exam, and since at the end of this summer holiday she went to a secondary school.  And what me and my wife as parents experience, this created a much bigger world for herself.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font></p> Transcription Sponsored by: <a href="http://transcriptdivas.co.uk">Transcript Divas Transcription Services</a>
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  • Steely

    what a refreshing alternative to the standard 'get out of the way, kid!' programs that pass for safety ed here in the states.  btw, many people credit Utrecht residents with starting the modern traffic calming movement in the 1960's.  one day a bunch of fed up parents just decided to put some furniture in the street.

  • http://amsterdamize.com amsterdamize

    So true, and similarly, Dutch parents around the Netherlands rose up in the 70's with the 'Stop The Child Murder' campaign, demanding safer streets for their children to walk and cycle in. It was the starting point of the change that led to what we have and (all) enjoy today.

  • vnm

    This seems very similar to the "Safety Towns" in the United States, or at least the one in Cleveland.  It would be interesting to see a comparison video.  In the U.S., the "Safety Town" concept should be expanded, since many kids might not get this info until Drivers Ed when they're teenagers.

  • Anonymous

    they're so much smarter than Americans

  • Nycdm

    you're intellectually lazy to say so, so i agree to a tiny degree.

  • http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.com/ Karen Lynn Allen

    Nice video. The kids look like they're enjoying themselves.

    Let's see, let's create safe bicycle infrastructure and give kids training so they can safely and independently transport themselves with little expense and get exercise to boot,


    let's have roads so unsafe that no child can bicycle or walk anywhere and instead must be chauffeured by an adult in 5000 lbs of expensive steel until they are 16. Then their parents can buy them their own mass of protective steel which will be the most likely cause of their death during their youth. As a bonus, we can fret about the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes while ensuring children are sedentary as possible as they spend hours per week strapped in and immobile in their protective steel.

    Percent of children overweight or obese:
    Netherlands:  16%
    USA:  35%
    (of course, diet is a factor as well)

  • http://twitter.com/Spokker Spokker

    For a field trip that beats the boring museums we went to in school. Judging from that picture, I don't blame cyclists for being mad that the smug ginger in the blue car is hogging the road all for herself. 

    Of course, I'd be the smart ass kid that gets detention for running Susie the Cyclist off the road. 

  • Tallycyclist

    This is the kind of training we desperately need in the states.  It was so incredibly cheap and easy to get my drivers license in PA; no wonder so many people are awful drivers there, and in the country in general.  Neither the permit nor the actual test itself ever made any mention of pedestrians or cyclists and the drivers test was a complete joke:  parallel park, drive to stop sign and stop completely, signal a turn and make the turn-PASS!  And with so many people never commuting or riding a bike, no wonder many drivers don't know how to yield or deal with them!

    The drivers education in the states seriously needs a complete overhaul.  It'll be  a big challenge, and will only become more difficult the longer we all wait.  The infrastructure definitely needs to also be improved to be more inclusive to all road users so that our roads and cities will be more livable and pleasant places. 

    It's simply unbelievable how uninformed people are about traffic rules and what symbols mean.  The "shark teeth" yield triangles that are common in northern Europe can actually be found at a few roundabouts at my campus of FSU.  Not a single person I asked knew what they stood one; some didn't even know that the solid white line is a stop line.  It's no surprise I see so much redundancy at intersections that have the stop line, the word "STOP" and a stop sign; some even have advanced warning about this coming up.  This would not be necessary if people knew what road symbols mean.  

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Green_Idea_Factory

    They have these in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and other Central-Eastern countries but they are a cruel tease if the real streets are not built for children.

    I heard that on Dutch-American Friendship Day they put some "sharrows" in this one in Utrecht but that the kids pooped on them.

  • lluciano

    i was a safety town graduate in el paso texas, as were my older three children---all at the age of 5.  

  • Jim

    We had  a similar experiential learning in Ohio when I was growing up.  Safety Town, third grade.  I believe it was largely funded by AAA.  It was a lot of fun, you learned, and you felt grown up with the practical knowledge you received.

  • SafeNActive

    I have witnessed this type of miniature streetscape educational model, however, believe "real world" education is more effective. Although these are fun for kids, young children have physical and developmental limitations...they are unable to gauge the speed, distance of "real" traffic. Physically, they are not as visible as adults and cannot see around or be seen behind parked cars, for instance. Placing them in a "real world" scenario, of course with supervised adult educators and parents is a more effective and long lasting educational experience.

  • Van den Belt

    The drivers education in the States sounds like throwing someone who doesn't know how to swim into the water. In The Netherlands we first teach how to swim, have people take an exam and only after that are people allowed to swim.