Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Decline of the Right to Roam

Jun 18, 2007 11:01 am

The Decline of the Right to Roam

As someone who grew up in the 1960s (very much a high-crime era) in the Minneapolis suburbs, I routinely exercised the right to roam on weekends and during holidays. Long before we were ten, my friends and I took long unsupervised hikes onto railway tracks, factory sites, and cemeteries. Along the way, we rolled down steep hills in cardboard boxes, climbed into storm drains, and floated on make-shift rafts in a creek.

Roaming of this type was the norm for my middle class friends. Our parents didn't give it a second thought, that is as long as we wandered back home by dinner.

Is the right to roam dead for good? Probably. But it was great while it lasted.

Courtesy of Jesse Walker at Hit and Run, an article in The Daily Mail shows how British children"lost the right to roam in four generations."

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Tim Sydney - 6/20/2007

The 'right to roam' story reminds me of an item I read in New Scientist some years back.

" A study of British cities found that for reasons of both crime and infrastructure (not wholly unrelated), the number of children who could walk to school alone fell from 80 percent in 1970 to 8 percent last year. Meanwhile, National Travel Survey data indicate that nearly a fifth of rush-hour traffic is parents driving children to school." (Source)

New Scientist also reported that the most common reason provided for not getting the children to walk to school was "too much traffic."

Mark Brady - 6/18/2007

It's ironic that the original story appeared in the Daily Mail, which for many years has sought to boost its circulation with scare stories about pedophiles and thus contributed to the current hysteria on this subject.

Growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s I and my friends had far more freedom to roam on our own than most children now enjoy. Indeed, when I was five or six I walked hundreds of yards to school along a footpath. (My reluctance to walk on my own was overcome by my mother's bribe of a new teddy bear.) Then when I was thirteen I and a friend took trains up to London and then to South Kensington to visit the museums where we spent the best part of the day.