Parental Instincts

I shouldn’t have been so surprised when my 5-yr old son, Jaden, jumped right into a pickup game of keep-away outside my sister-in-law’s home where we are staying in a small village near Munich. He has spent the last 3 years with German-speaking kids at his co-op preschool in SW Portland. But it made me proud to see him mix it up with kids 3 years older than him with no sign of intimidation. I watched for a while and then began to feel awkward for him since he was the only kid with a parent hovering over his shoulder. So I followed the other parents lead and disappeared into the backyard. After a few minutes it hit me, MY 5-YR OLD IS PLAYING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.

Jaden dodges a tall redheaded German boy with focus and determination

Questions immediately started running through my brain. What happens if the ball runs out under a passing car and my determined-to-win son sacrifices his life for the game? What if that big bully decides to pull out his glock and cap the cocky American kid? Wait a second, where is his 3-yr old sister? Am I a bad parent? Turns out I’m not. Judging by the number of kids playing keep-away or riding their bikes or walking barefoot across an empty field to a neighbors play structure (my daughter) every child in the entire village under the age of 16 was spending Sunday having fun in the middle of the street far from the watchful eye of one of their parents. Now this is what I came here to see…I have to learn more!

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About Denver Igarta

This blog was established to document my search for streets that my 5-year old can play near without my constant supervision. Where kids can live active lives and learn independence. My quest began when I was selected as an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, for info: gmfus.org/cdp/fellowships. I am a multi-modal transportation planner for the City of Portland (OR), America's sustainable transportation capital. SHORT BIO/PROJECT DESCRIPTION Denver Igarta (October-November 2011), Urban Planner, City of Portland Bureau of Transportation Project: Livable Streets Where People Live: Fostering People-Friendly Streets by De-emphasizing Automobile Traffic in Residential Areas Cities: Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Malmö Denver Igarta is an urban planner with the Transportation Bureau of the City of Portland. He works on a broad range of transportation policy, street design initiatives and pedestrian, bicycle and freight planning efforts. He recently served as one of the principal authors of Portland's new bicycle plan. He is currently staffing two “active transportation” projects: a rails-with-trails project along the Banfield Freeway and a local street system plan for one of the state's most diverse neighborhoods. He performed his graduate studies at the University of Dortmund, Germany and the University of the Philippines and holds a Master of Science in Regional Development Planning. Portland is struggling to reverse generations of auto-oriented development patterns and make neighborhood streets more “livable” (people-friendly) by restoring their multimodal and placemaking functions. Mr. Igarta's research will evaluate how cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden have enacted policies to restore the multiple functions of public streets through traffic management, green infrastructure and giving priority to sustainable travel modes. He will meet with local practitioners, policymakers and civic leaders involved in transportation planning, traffic safety and neighborhood livability projects, street design, and implementation of multi-modal traffic policies. The ultimate aim of the study is to compile a set of best practices and policies implemented in European cities that have broadened the role of residential streets beyond automobile mobility. Additional focus will be given to understanding how acceptable policy tradeoffs are determined within city agencies and the level of public support for measures that restrict car movements, such as reduced speed zones, bicycle streets, shared spaces, residents-only streets and residential parking restrictions.
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