I think Rob is letting fond memories of his childhood cloud his perception of the present:
The street I grew up on was what I imagine a typical suburban development looks like. I’ve seen it recently with new developments that friends and relatives have moved to as soon as they had kids. Inevitably, just outside the current suburbs, a developer will buy a bunch of undeveloped land and build a couple of “phases” of new affordable homes (“affordable” is a relative term, especially in the Bay Area). These new affordable homes attract young families with kids, so the neighborhood becomes a childhood utopia of bike riding, sports playing and swimming pool parties.
I live in the cheapest house in a newer phase in the same suburb that Rob grew up in and the only children I ever see are the ones being ferried backwards and forwards to karate/baseball/football by their parents.
I grew up on a Council Estate (what ‘mercans might call a Housing Project) and I have the same memories as Rob. On any given day, we could spontaneously start our own football league or host the olympics (which we actually did in ’76 – I won!). It’s the main reason I moved into my street. I wanted my kids to have the same experiences that I did. Apart from when they are going to/returning from school or adult-supervised sporting activities, the only sign of under-age life on my street is the sound of clicking coming from their bedrooms.
This is the first generation in 2 million years of human evolution to grow up indoors. I blame the parents.