“Stop the Child Murder”: How a grassroots movement for children’s safety formed a new paradigm in urban design

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Dutch cities are nowadays considered among the most pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly in the world. However, back in 1971, pedestrian deaths by motor vehicles had reached record levels, with 3,300 people dead, 500 of whom were children. Following the tragic death of his young daughter in such an accident, a journalist wrote a polemical article, entitled “Stop the Child Murder”, which became a national sensation. With the same motto, in the densely populated district of De Pijp in Amsterdam, a group of children organized themselves to demand safer streets and to claim open space for play instead for car parking. In a documentary filmed locally, we watch children actively claiming their rights, putting up barricades to exclude motor traffic, standing up to adults expressing opposite opinions. Soon after, many local streets in De Pijp were transformed into “woonerven” (living streets), where children can move around safely and play in the proximity of their houses, thus setting the norm in the Netherlands. In the paper this historical case of a grassroots movement successfully instigating institutional change is critically presented in order to understand its local specificities and to extract useful lessons about the tools, agents and methodology of community based urban transformation.
children’s right to the city, children’s activism, woonerf, livable street paradigm