Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Traffic Education in Näsby Park - Trafiklekparken

As an urban planner, I'm always looking for good ideas to steal and bring back home. One of the best thing about travel is that there is such a diversity of ideas about what is "good" and what will work out in the built environment. There is just more opportunity to run into something novel, and that's exactly what happened to me out in Näsby Park (a suburb of Stockholm).

One of the big problems that we have in urban environments is teaching children how to cope with a downright dangerous and usually unfriendly environment for children. Traffic and kids are not a natural combination and one error, on the part of the driver or the kid, can turn a fun walk to a friend's house into a nightmare headline. Educating kids about traffic safety is absolutely vital to a healthy community. By giving kids the age-appropriate tools they need to independently navigate their own community, we give them additional independence and prevent needless accidents. Unfortunately, all to often the places where kids get their education about traffic safety is on their local streets. In the United States, there is seldom a place where kids can practice the skills they need to be safe on their way to school or to a friend's house outside of the street itself. But, what would it look like if there was a safe place for kids to learn to read the traffic signs and symbols of the street without having to be in traffic?

Well, we don't have to wonder. The trafiklekparken (Traffic Play Park) provides exactly this type of environment for children to play, learn, and not have to learn from close calls.

The park itself is located in a larger park and was built in 2007. The park provides children with a miniature traffic world, complete with accurate (if miniature) signs, a variety of different types of intersections (including a roundabout), marked sidewalks, a pretend bus stop, and a railroad crossing (complete with movable booms). It includes 20 different signs and asphalt markings that are crucial to traffic safety. With a parent in tow, this presents an ideal environment for learning about traffic safety. Even without the overarching pedagogical content, the kids here looked like they were having a blast biking around the roads.

Is this something that you want in your community? Share this with your neighbors, local bike advocates, and the parks department for your city! It's an idea worth stealing!

You can find out more information about the park (in Swedish) here: http://www.taby.se/Stadsbyggnad_trafik/Parker-och-natur/Barn-och-unga/Lekplatser/Trafiklekplatsen/
There is also a PDF brochure about the park here: http://www.taby.se/PageFiles/6040/Broschyr_webb.pdf

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