Back in December 2012 the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development introduced the new German National Cycling Plan 2020 (pdf – in German!). The main theme of the new Plan, which builds off the National Cycling Plan 2002-2012, is the collective advancement of bicycle transportation among all levels of government including advocacy groups on both the national and local level. One of the key areas the Plan focuses on is the exchange of knowledge and expertise and this is partially achieved through a publication series in English – in order to facilitate an international exchange of knowledge – called “Cycling Expertise” which is a project of the German Institute for Urban Studies (DIfU – in German).
The February 3rd edition covered mobility education for children and youths. One of the examples mentioned in the publication is an organization called the Leipzig Children’s Office (Leipziger Kinderbüro – in German) which, as the name says, happens to be here in Leipzig. The organization started as a pilot project in 1994 (in both Leipzig and Frankfurt) and was officially founded in 1997. Since then, the Children’s Office has been working with children to help incorporate the needs of kids in street and other construction projects such as building or renovating schools. Additionally, decisions made by city council which affect children require, by law, the participation of those children, so the office serves as facilitator for getting the kids involved in the planning process.
In general the office plays a big role in getting kids to actively explore their neighborhood and identify weak points: intersections or points along their route to school with high crash rates, areas which are particularly dangerous for girls and city play grounds or green spaces among others. The kids create neighborhood maps showing the danger areas or areas they feel could use improvement. The kids’ suggestions are then passed on to planners.
The office also carries out and analyses children’s surveys and helps the kids with video and writing projects about the street or neighborhood they live in. One of the foundations of the office’s work is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and they advocate for the implementation of those rights. They also helped establish seats for children on neighborhood councils in Leipzig and helped get children-oriented signage installed around schools and neighborhoods which highlight points of interest for kids. An overview (in German) of the Children Office’s goals, activities and successes can be found at the Bertelsmann Stiftung here.