Streetfilms Visits A Dutch ‘Woonerf’

Shared streets have a long history in Massachusetts – why shouldn't we have more?

A family walks four abreast down a brick-paved street. A man wearing a blue shirt in the center walks a yellow bicycle
Neighbors enjoy a Dutch "woonerf," or shared street, in Utrecht. Photo by Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Narrow, shared streets, where pedestrians can wander across the entire width of the street and cars must creep along at a safe walking pace, have a long history in Massachusetts. They can be found in Colonial-era districts like Marshall Street in downtown Boston, Commercial Street in Provincetown, or Essex Street in Salem, and they also exist in some form on most college campuses across the state.

Where such places exist, they are extremely popular: they’re striking examples of how much better streets can be with fewer cars and slower traffic.

And yet, in spite of their long history of success, they remain relatively rare here.

That’s not the case in the Netherlands, where filmmaker Clarence Eckerson Jr. has wrapped a new mini-documentary about a residential “woonerf” (Dutch for “living street”) in Utrecht:

In a blog post accompanying the new video, Eckerson writes:

When I posted I was headed to The Netherlands once again to visit (and for my first time to Utrecht), as usual I got a lot of recommendations on what to look at. One of the first people to contact me was Rebecca Albrecht, who moved there with her husband Paul from Boston about three years ago and couldn’t be more delighted to live there…

When I arrived the street was full of neighbors and children and they wanted to talk to me about their lovely street. But this is not something exceptional as over 2 million Dutch people live on play/living streets. So take a gander but be warned: you will want the same thing for your block.



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