I may have mentioned this before, but I knew a professor in Portland who received a research fellowship and moved to Japan for two years with his family. When the time came to return to the U.S., the children, ages 9 and 11, didn't want to leave Japan, because they had more freedom in Japan than in the States. They could get around town walking, cycling, or taking transit and didn't have to wait for rides, as they did in the suburbs of even such a transit-friendly city as Portland.
Spending most of my elementary school years in a town of 30,000 that was laid out in a block grid, I had much more freedom than my nieces and nephews did growing up in typical suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul. During the years we lived on an arterial street, we were not allowed to cross it unaccompanied, but there were plenty of little used streets, including all the ones that led to our school. Nobody ever worried about our being abducted, even though there were abductions in those days, just not nationally publicized ones.