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What Happens to Kid Culture When You Close the Streets to Cars

In the Spanish city Pontevedra, a family-friendly “pedestrianization” policy has helped increase the population of kids, despite the country’s low birth rates.
Kids play soccer on a carless street in Pontevedra.
Kids play soccer on a carless street in Pontevedra.Pontevedra City Council

PONTEVEDRA—Once a city with narrow streets invaded by traffic and city squares more like parking lots, the roads of Pontevedra, Spain, are now often filled with baby strollers and children playing. Kids carry their toys in small backpacks and spread them on the pavement to share with other kids. Playgrounds with swing sets and slides are deliberately unencumbered by fences. “We want children to play all over our city, and to play whatever game comes to mind,” said Cesar Mosquera, the Urban Councilor of Pontevedra.

By restricting traffic and eliminating physical barriers, the city council has redesigned Pontevedra from the sight line of a child. Doing so, Mosquera believes, helps the city address everybody’s needs, especially the disadvantaged. “Where there are children, there are healthy adults,” Mosquera said. The policy, which has been expanding for almost two decades now, has had many impacts on the community. One of the most tangible: The once-languishing historic city center has become a friendlier space for kids and their caretakers.