Opinion | Play Street makes it safer for children to go out

Mary Sauer is a freelance parenting and health writer living in Kansas City.

Parents like me are beginning to understand what science has been saying for years: children need more time to play outdoors and in free range.

With more children stuck at home and glued to screens, many studies are connecting the dots between independent outdoor play and child well-being. Still, we are concerned about the increasing risks associated with transportation. It would be easy to get a ride if the streets weren’t full of dangerous and distracted drivers.

So we were left at a difficult crossroads. Do we send our children out of the house to play, even at our own risk? Enough standing on the curb and wringing my hands. The solution is to create more play trails. This is a proven but poorly supported program that creates temporary car-free zones where children can safely gather.

Play Streets originated in New York City in the early 20th century. Cars began to dominate the roads, resulting in the tragic deaths of children who were already using the roads as a playground. As a result, community leaders petitioned to close portions of the road so children could travel outdoors without risk.

Word spread. In England he legislated Play Street in 1938. Australia later adopted the program, and it remains in some American cities today. For example, the City of Chicago has been issuing Play Street permits since 2012, and each summer she aims to sponsor over 150 Play Streets. In Los Angeles, residents can apply for 4-6 hour closures that repeat weekly or monthly. The City is also offering a “Box of Play” to encourage fun and physical activity during the closure period.

But it’s not just about the biggest cities and urban centers. Play trails are perfect for quiet suburban areas like mine where you’re used to distracted drivers having the right of way. I’ve seen the same driver speed down the hill where we live twice a day with his cell phone held in front of his face. The same literature that documents the widespread benefits of outdoor play also notes the negative effects that traffic has on children, including risk of injury, exposure to exhaust gases, and high stress. There are no sidewalks in my neighborhood. This has also been linked to an increase in traffic-related injuries in children.

Unfortunately, in most cities, hosting a play street event is neither easy nor intuitive due to lack of funding and community-wide education. In Kansas City, Missouri, civic leaders gave playgrounds a loose framework during the pandemic, when the city was fast-tracking permits for outdoor block parties. Neighbors can use these permits to control traffic and allow children to play freely for a certain period of time during the summer.

“We had 13 kids learn how to ride bikes,” Eric Bunch, one of the city council members, told me about the months-long road closures in his neighborhood. “I talked to a lot of parents who said, ‘If we didn’t have this space for our kids to learn, we wouldn’t be able to do this.'”

Unfortunately, the city did not install any fencing, forcing residents to set up folding chairs and tables as makeshift barricades. Drivers were dissatisfied, and many of the unofficial blockades were destroyed and abandoned. Bunch, whose own children spent two years playing on the streets during intermittent shutdowns during the summer of the pandemic, spoke at length about these issues. He felt they could be alleviated with better awareness, official signage and actual traffic barriers.

Educating and engaging citizens to organize could reduce resistance to street play. Cities like mine could leverage existing funding through initiatives like Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths. When I asked Bunch what people can do to host a play street in their community, he said a good first step is to contact local officials who represent their neighborhoods. He also suggested partnering with advocacy groups that focus on walkability and safe transportation for people of all abilities. They may already support a playground where you live.

For a generation of children who spend much of their lives indoors and in front of screens, PlayStreet events are small changes that can have a lasting impact on preserving childhood play.

Source link

Related Posts

Next Post

Follow Us



    Please install/update and activate JNews Instagram plugin.