I do agree with Joe Clark’s recent blog entry protesting shared streets without sidewalks, but I feel that the Netherlands was mistreated by the Toronto Star and to a lesser extent Joe Clark himself. For starters, the sidewalk-free erf as apparently exists in Cologne (assuming that’s what
Koln is supposed to mean — if you don’t know how to type Köln, type Koeln or just use the English name) is something that, in the Netherlands, usually only exists where there is no place for sidewalks, and all erven are culs-de-sac.
I’d say a typical erf does have sidewalks. Its distinguishing features are that cars have to drive really slowly (no precise speed is specified, but in practice it definitely doesn’t mean anything over about 10 kmph) because everybody except cars can utilize the street however they like, and that traffic can’t pass through: it’s a cul-de-sac after all. Most important it means a place where it’s safe for kids to play on the entire street and where everybody can utilize the street however they like. By no means does it mean that there aren’t supposed to be any sidewalks, and to claim that it does is a misunderstanding at best. Sadly some misguided people have managed to introduce erven without sidewalks in some places where there is enough space for them, but I’m glad to say that this is far from the norm.
In conclusion, the Toronto Star must have projected its own vision of “better” street conditions on what is actually going on in countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium. An erf does not mean a lack of sidewalks, its application is only in carefully selected areas, and it is always meant to be a cul-de-sac. If you want to copy erven, at least do it right. Don’t claim they’re things they’re not.