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Children’s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of Residential Streets

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  • UNSW CANBERRA

Abstract and Figures

Residential streets have the potential to be a critically important space for children’s recreation, arguably more important for their well-being than the special purpose spaces adults have designed for children’s play. However, not only have residential streets been largely lost to children as play space, they have attracted relatively little attention in children’s geography and related disciplines compared with other urban spaces such as school grounds, playgrounds, and shopping malls. The loss of access to their residential streets has significantly reduced children’s opportunities for creative, self-directed, spontaneous, and interactive play, with negative consequences for their health and well-being. Tranter and Doyle (Int Play J 4:81–97, 1996) made a case for reclaiming the residential street as play space for children. This chapter further develops this case and shows how many of the ideas in this chapter have been taken up in more recent research, and some of their recommendations for policy and practice have been implemented in cities throughout the world. In many cities, there has been a rediscovery of the function of the street beyond its role as a conduit for cars; the street is now seen, legitimately, as a place for social interaction, learning, and play. While cars still dominate most residential streets, the case remains strong for the argument that children’s play on residential streets has immense value for children’s well-being. In addition, reclaiming the street for children is likely to benefit their parents as well as the wider environment and community. These arguments need to be clearly articulated if there is to be a cultural change that allows children, and their right to play, to be seen as more important than the desire of motorists for speed in residential streets.
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Chapter Title Children’s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value
of Residential Streets AU1
Copyright Year 2015
Copyright Holder Springer Science+Business Media Singapore
Corresponding Author Family Name Tranter
Particle
Given Name Paul
Suffix
Division/Department School of Physical, Environmental
and Mathematical Sciences
Organization/University UNSW Canberra
City Canberra
State BC
Postcode 2610
Country Australia
Email p.tranter@adfa.edu.au
Abstract Residential streets have the potential to be a critically important space for
children’s recreation, arguably more important for their well-being than
the special purpose spaces adults have designed for children’s play.
However, not only have residential streets been largely lost to children
as play space, but they have attracted relatively little attention in
children’s geography and related disciplines compared with other urban
spaces such as school grounds, playgrounds, and shopping malls. The
loss of access to their residential streets has significantly reduced
children’s opportunities for creative, self-directed, spontaneous, and
interactive play, with negative consequences for their health and well-
being. Tranter and Doyle (Int Play J 4:81–97, 1996) made a case for
reclaiming the residential street as play space for children. This chapter
further develops this case and shows how many of the ideas in this
chapter have been taken up in more recent research, and some of their
recommendations for policy and practice have been implemented in
cities throughout the world. In many cities, there has been a
rediscovery of the function of the street beyond its role as a conduit for
cars; the street is now seen, legitimately, as a place for social interaction,
learning, and play. While cars still dominate most residential streets, the
case remains strong for the argument that children’s play on residential
streets has immense value for children’s well-being. In addition,
reclaiming the street for children is likely to benefit their parents as
well as the wider environment and community. These arguments need
to be clearly articulated if there is to be a cultural change that allows
children, and their right to play, to be seen as more important than the
desire of motorists for speed in residential streets.
BookID 322292_0_En__ChapID _Proof# 1 - 15/12/15
Keywords
(separated by “-”)
Children’s play - Helicopter parenting - Neighborhoods - Parental
interventions - Play space - Residential street
BookID 322292_0_En__ChapID _Proof# 1 - 15/12/15
1Children’s Play in their Local
2Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value
3of Residential Streets AU1
4Paul Tranter
5Contents
61 Introduction ................................................................................... 2
72 Lost Streets: Lost Freedoms ................................................................. 4
83 Why Aren’t Children Playing in the Street? ................................................ 4
94 Does the Loss of the Street as Play Space Matter? ......................................... 7
10 5 Advantages of Streets as Play Space . ....................................................... 9
11 6 Reclaiming the Residential Street as Play Space ............................................ 12
6.1 Lower Speed Limits and Area-Wide Traffic Calming . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
6.2 Traffic Engineers and Other Professionals Designing Streets for Play . .............. 14
6.3 Disseminating the Idea That Children Playing in the Street Encourages
Strong Communities . . . ................................................................ 16
6.4 The Introduction of “Play Streets” in All New Residential Developments .......... 16
6.5 A Change in Terminology Away from “Traffic Calming” to “Play Streets” . . . ..... 17
12 7 Schemes for the Encouragement of Children’s Play on Residential Streets . . ............. 19
13 8 Conclusion: The Future of Children’s Play Spaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ................ 21
14 References ....................... ........................................... ...................... 22
15 Abstract
16 Residential streets have the potential to be a critically important space for
17 children’s recreation, arguably more important for their well-being than the
18 special purpose spaces adults have designed for children’s play. However, not
19 only have residential streets been largely lost to children as play space, but they
20 have attracted relatively little attention in children’s geography and related
21 disciplines compared with other urban spaces such as school grounds, play-
22 grounds, and shopping malls. The loss of access to their residential streets has
23 significantly reduced children’s opportunities for creative, self-directed,
P. Tranter (*)
School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, UNSW Canberra, Canberra,
BC, Australia
e-mail: p.tranter@adfa.edu.au
#Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2015
B. Evans et al. (eds.), Play, Recreation, Health and Well Being, Geographies of
Children and Young People 9, DOI 10.1007/978-981-4585-96-5_37-1
1
24 spontaneous, and interactive play, with negative consequences for their health
25 and well-being. Tranter and Doyle (Int Play J 4:81–97, 1996) made a case for
26 reclaiming the residential street as play space for children. This chapter further
27 develops this case and shows how many of the ideas in this chapter have been
28 taken up in more recent research, and some of their recommendations for policy
29 and practice have been implemented in cities throughout the world. In many
30 cities, there has been a rediscovery of the function of the street beyond its role as
31 a conduit for cars; the street is now seen, legitimately, as a place for social
32 interaction, learning, and play. While cars still dominate most residential streets,
33 the case remains strong for the argument that children’s play on residential
34 streets has immense value for children’s well-being. In addition, reclaiming
35 the street for children is likely to benefit their parents as well as the wider
36 environment and community. These arguments need to be clearly articulated if
37 there is to be a cultural change that allows children, and their right to play, to be
38 seen as more important than the desire of motorists for speed in residential
39 streets.
40 Keywords AU2
41 Children’s play • Helicopter parenting • Neighborhoods • Parental interventions •
42 Play space • Residential street
43 Viscountess Nancy Astor tells the House of Commons in 1926:
44 There is no more pitiable sight in life than a child which has been arrested for playing in the
45 street... Though these children may be fined, we stand convicted. (Astor 1926)
46 1 Introduction
47 Much of the geographic research on children’s health and well-being has focused
48 on two interrelated themes: parents’ interventions to reduce their children’s expo-
49 sure to risk and the declining levels of children’s well-being over recent decades in
50 many nations. Parental interventions typically involve reducing children’s freedom
51 to independently explore their local neighborhoods and cities and replacing child-
52 organized activities with adult-organized and adult-supervised activities. Declining
53 levels of child health and well-being can be seen in levels of physical activity,
54 opportunities for unstructured play, particularly outdoor play, levels of overweight
55 and obesity, and children’s sense of social connection and mental well-being
56 (Burdette and Whitaker 2005; Freeman 1995; Karsten 2005; Stanley et al. 2005;
57 Whitzman et al. 2010). Children are getting “fatter, sicker, and sadder” (Gleeson
58 2006). In addition, there has been little change in children’s agency (Freeman
59 2007). The changes in the use of residential streets that have occurred over the
60 last few decades can be seen as an important causal factor in these declining levels
2 P. Tranter
61 of well-being. Children’s use of residential streets provides a fertile area for
62 geographical research, as it brings together a range of themes affecting the well-
63 being of children, attitudes to risk and freedom, the transport and land-use systems
64 of cities, and the contemporary culture of consumption. While the residential street
65 has been problematized as a “dangerous” place for children, this also had the effect
66 of reducing the child-friendliness of cities, as well as their livability for all city
67 residents.
68 The increased emphasis on individual responsibility within neoliberal societies
69 is an important factor in understanding the loss of the residential street as play
70 space. When streets are perceived to have become more dangerous (through
71 increased traffic or other dangers), and parents are expected to respond to these
72 dangers, the responses available to parents operating as individuals are limited to
73 protecting their own child by removing them from the street, giving them more
74 indoor and adult-organized activities and providing supposedly “safer” mobility for
75 their children as passengers in cars. The collective impact of these individual
76 decisions is the creation of a vicious circle in terms of children’s well-being. Parents
77 become caught in “social traps,” where they feel they can’t let their children walk to
78 school because of the dangers created by other parents who drive their children to
79 school (Tranter 2006). Parental fears and concerns for their own children lead to an
80 increase in traffic and hence an increase in the real dangers to children from cars.
81 This also leads to a fall in natural community surveillance, which increases fears for
82 children playing in these spaces (Weller and Bruegel 2009).
83 If parents are able to respond collectively to the perceived dangers of the street,
84 they may well come up with alternatives to driving their children everywhere. This
85 is what has happened with the growing trend toward using and legitimating streets
86 as places for playful children (and adults) rather than simply as movement corridors
87 for cars. Tranter and Doyle (1996) made a case for reclaiming the residential street
88 as play space for children. This chapter uses some of their ideas to reexamine the
89 value of the residential street as play space and what may be (and what has been)
90 done to reclaim the residential street for children and non-motorists of all ages.
91 Although the car lobby is still extremely powerful, the cultural context for
92 making streets more child-friendly has changed markedly since the publication of
93 Tranter and Doyle’s 1996 paper. There is now growing and widespread support for
94 20 mph streets (in the UK) and 30 km/h streets in many European cities, stronger
95 restrictions on parking, and wider introduction of play streets and “Home Zones” –
96 “a group of residential streets designed so that the street space is available for social
97 uses such as children’s play, while car access is also allowed” (Gill 2006, p. 91).
98 This is all occurring within a global context of increasing awareness of the impacts
99 of our lifestyles and transport and land-use systems on climate change, as well as
100 the growing awareness of the likely inability of consumerist societies to maintain
101 their economic growth (Miller and Sorrell 2014). The implications of this change in
102 the culture of residential streets for the well-being of children have attracted
103 remarkably little attention, possibly because of the implied (and arguably flawed)
104 assumption that private car-based transport will continue to retain its dominance
105 over more sustainable (and child-friendly) modes of transport.
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 3
106 2 Lost Streets: Lost Freedoms
107 Researchers have long argued the value of streets for social contact and civic
108 activities (Jacobs 1961). However, these functions have largely disappeared from
109 residential neighborhoods in the USA, Australia, and many other nations. As
110 Donald Appleyard observed, streets in the USA have “become dangerous, unlivable
111 environments, yet most people live on them” (Appleyard 1980, p. 106). Appleyard
112 argued that streets should be redefined “as sanctuaries; as livable places; as com-
113 munities; as resident territory; as places for play, greenery, and local history”
114 (Appleyard 1980, p. 106). Appleyard also identified the key criteria for what he
115 called protected neighborhoods, including lower speeds and volumes of traffic,
116 reduced noise and accidents, and right of way for pedestrians.
117 In many cities throughout the world (or the Western world at least), fewer
118 children use the streets for play than a few decades ago (Allin et al. 2014; Living
119 Streets 2009). (There are some notable exceptions, as discussed below.) Not only
120 are fewer children using the streets for play, children are also less likely to use the
121 streets for independent mobility (Shaw et al. 2013). Declines in children’s inde-
122 pendent mobility over recent decades are evidenced by the changes in the mode of
123 transport to school. Australian data for children aged 5–9 indicate that while in
124 1971, approximately 58 % of these children walked to school, that had fallen to
125 26 % in 2003, with the percent being driven increasing from 22 % to 67 %(Van Der
126 Ploeg et al. 2008). Similar trends are evident in other nations (Barker 2006; Hillman
127 et al.1990; O’Brien et al. 2000). Children in many Western nations are much more
128 likely to be driven to school, their friends, sport, and other places than they were a
129 few decades ago. In Toronto, Canada, the increase in car trips for 11- to 15-year-
130 olds was 83 % between 1986 and 2001, in contrast to a rise of only 11 % in car use
131 by adults (Gilbert and O’Brien 2005). This loss of children’s independent mobility,
132 and its replacement with car-dependent mobility, can be seen as a loss of play
133 opportunities, because when children move through their neighborhood, their
134 movement is not simply a matter of transport. Even the journey to school can be
135 a playful experience if children are allowed to walk:
136 this does not mean that they walked in the adult sense of the word ... children were
137 observed jumping, climbing, skating, sliding, chasing, sitting, leaning ...they played along
138 the way to any destination as they investigated, with mind and body, every opportunity
139 presented by the street cum gymnasium. (Abu-Ghazzeh 1998, p. 826)
140 3 Why Aren’t Children Playing in the Street?
141 The reasons for the loss of the street as a play space for many children are complex.
142 They relate to:
143 The role of traffic engineers in the design of residential streets (for cars)
144 The cultural construction of streets as being an inappropriate place for children
4 P. Tranter
145 Parents’ concerns about traffic and other dangers
146 • Over-parenting
147 The individualistic responses of parents toward children’s safety
148 The decrease in the strength of local community networks
149 The lack of appreciation of the value of play
150 The role of new information technologies
151 The introduction of curfews to keep children off the streets
152 The main reason for the gradual removal of children from the streets has
153 arguably been the increasing dominance of private motor vehicles (Hillman
154 1999). Related to this is the way in which streets (even residential streets) have
155 been designed largely with the safety of motorists in mind, which encouraged
156 higher traffic speeds and a psychology where motorists see the street as “their”
157 territory. While these trends had a direct impact on children’s safety, they also
158 prompted parents to accept the responsibility for their children’s safety by keeping
159 them “off the streets.” A famous British road safety poster from the 1970s epito-
160 mized the view of the streets as a place for cars only, using a picture of a child about
161 to step on to the street, with the caption “One false move and you’re dead” (Hillman
162 et al. 1990). Research has clearly demonstrated the impact of traffic volumes on the
163 use of streets:
164 There is empirical evidence that traffic speed and volume reduces physical activity, social
165 contacts, children’s play, and access to goods and services. (Mindell and Karlsen 2012,
166 p. 232)
167 It has not only been traffic danger that has been a concern for parents; increasing
168 fears for personal safety have developed. This has been exacerbated by the lack of
169 use of residential streets by people of all ages, partly in response to traffic danger,
170 but also to the closure of local schools, shops, and services and hence people’s
171 reliance on motor vehicles for access to these places. In addition, with the de-zoning
172 of neighborhood schools, many parents choose to send their children to the “best
173 schools,” even if this means longer car journeys (Morris et al. 2001). The conse-
174 quence of the lack of use of the streets (apart from cars) is that the streets become
175 seen as dangerous for children, in terms of the fear of assault and molestation. The
176 lack of people walking on the streets reduces the strength of local communities and
177 the likelihood that other adults could keep a watchful eye on children they know.
178 Changes in parental attitudes to allowing children freedom to explore their own
179 neighborhood independently can be partially attributed to the breakdown in support
180 networks and community cohesion (Furedi 2002), which in turn is related to the
181 reduced presence of children in the streets.
182 Another important factor in parental attitudes relates to the way that children
183 have been conceptualized as vulnerable, dependent, and incapable of taking respon-
184 sibility and of managing risks themselves (Malone 2007). This, along with a desire
185 by parents to give their children the best chances of success in a consumerist world,
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 5
186 has led to the phenomenon of over-parenting or as it is sometimes called “helicopter
187 parenting” (Talbot 2013).
188 This conceptualization of children as “at risk” in outdoor environments also
189 exposes them to long-term risks that are poorly understood by many parents. These
190 risks are linked with a lack of physical activity, increased levels of overweight and
191 obesity and associated health problems, and a lack of the awareness needed to
192 evaluate risks that comes from a lack of exposure to social and environmental
193 challenges that occur during playful interaction with their own neighborhoods (Gill
194 2007).
195 The negative stigma associated with streets as a place for children is identifiable
196 at least from the 1920s in the USA, as can be seen in this assessment of the leisure
197 time of New York children:
198 It is during this time which these children spend on the street in unsupervised and
199 uncontrolled activities that they are exposed to the worst elements of city life. There is
200 the danger of auto-mobile accidents in the streets. Gang life with its own standards and
201 controls functions in forming patterns of behavior. The child is free to find excitement in
202 delinquent activities. (Robinson 1936, p. 493)
203 Another study suggested “undirected street play tends to develop disrepect AU3for
204 the law and cunningness in social relationships” (Reeves 1931, p. 609).
205 Yet while a negative view of the streets was clearly identifiable, there was also a
206 recognition at this time of the value of play streets: “play streets, playgrounds, and
207 parks staffed with trained workers are essential” (Robinson 1936, p. 493) and also
208 of the attraction of streets to children as a play space: “even if the children are not
209 compelled to play in the streets through actual congestion, they are apparently
210 inclined to do so, unless a strong counter-attraction is provided” (Reeves 1931,
211 p. 607).
212 Something that was not predicted in these early studies was the impact of
213 information technology on children’s use of the streets. The popularity of iPhones,
214 iPads, Xboxes, and PlayStations has intensified children’s use of indoor spaces and
215 their isolation from their residential streets.
216 As if there were not enough forces leading to the removal of children from the
217 streets, there has also been legislation to support this process. Not only have
218 children been removed from the streets through the threats of traffic danger and
219 other dangers, and the competing attractions of indoor activities, but also in some
220 cases authorities have implemented street curfews for children aged under 10 years.
221 As Matthews et al. (1999) explain, this “has been fuelled by discourses which
222 present a vision of a society escalating toward lawlessness and moral decline.”
223 Rather than curfews, more inclusionary strategies are needed that encourage the
224 incorporation of children into communities and “challenge the hegemony of adult-
225 hood upon the landscape” (Matthews et al. 1999,AU41713).
226 Two broader considerations that are important for explaining the gradual
227 removal of playful children from the street are that children are seen as a low
228 political priority, and play itself is not highly valued. Children’s rights to
6 P. Tranter
229 participation are rarely understood. Most planners and politicians understand the
230 value of protection and provision rights, even though in our attempt to protect
231 children (e.g., from traffic) and to provide for them (e.g., recreation), adults
232 unwittingly make cities less child-friendly, for example, when they drive their
233 children to organized activities. Children’s views on the use of residential streets
234 are rarely acknowledged or even sought out. If they were, then we would realize
235 that “streets are favoured by children and they are often intentionally chosen as play
236 space” (Galani and Gospodini 2013). Even though the right to play has been
237 recognized in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article
238 31), many planners and policy-makers see the right to play as an optional dimension
239 of children’s lives.
240 While play is now recognized as being of fundamental importance for children’s
241 development (physical, intellectual, social, and emotional), many city planning and
242 policy decision-makers regard play as a frivolous activity, and adult-organized
243 activities such as sport are seen as superior (Hart 2002, p. 136). However, this
244 situation is likely to be damaging for children; sport is not play and should not be
245 seen as a substitute for it (Freeman and Tranter 2011). The loss of the street as a
246 play space for children has meant a reduction in play, which can be seen as having
247 negative consequences for children.
248 4 Does the Loss of the Street as Play Space Matter?
249 Should we simply accept that children’s lives are different now and that with
250 progress comes increased motorization and increased organization and scheduling
251 of children’s (and adult’s) lives? Such acceptance seems to have been the default
252 response by many people in Western societies, judging by the overwhelming
253 response of adults in terms of their strategies in keeping children off the streets.
254 However, researchers and activists have made strong arguments regarding the value
255 of the residential street as play space.
256 The so-called progress that has enabled the growth in car ownership and use is
257 associated with a number of claimed benefits for children. Many children now have
258 a much wider range of activities (and places) that they can be taken to in the course
259 of their daily lives than they could without access to the mobility provided by their
260 parents (or other adults) with the use of cars. Yet these perceived benefits should be
261 weighed against a range of disbenefits for children and indeed for whole commu-
262 nities. These disbenefits include a loss of access to their own neighborhood and
263 community, a loss of a sense of place (Engwicht 1992), reduced levels of indepen-
264 dent mobility and the associated negative impacts of this on health, and the loss of
265 opportunities for local play. For the parents, an important cost is the considerable
266 extra time demands created by constantly having to drive children to the various
267 activities that they are now engaged in. Research in the UK found that the time
268 parents spend looking after children had quadrupled over the 25 years between
269 1975 and 2000 (from 25 to 99 min per day) (Future Foundation 2006).
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 7
270 Both parents and children suffer when the street is lost as a play space. New
271 terms have become part of the language to describe childhood, including indoor
272 children, backseat generation, and turbo-childhood (Karsten 2005; Malone 2007).
273 An Australian study found that children while active were spending only 10 % of
274 their time in “play,” and 5 % of children claimed to have no outdoor play (Malone
275 2007).
276 It is difficult to precisely document the decline in children’s outdoor or active
277 free play due to the lack of longitudinal tracking of children’s play (Holt
278 et al. 2015). However, Allin, West, and Curry report a Play England survey
279 indicating that almost one-third of UK parents “do not let their children play
280 outdoors due to fears of accident or injury and one half due to fears of ‘stranger
281 danger.’” Another recent UK study commissioned by “Living Streets,” based on
282 interviews with parents of 5- to 10-year-old children, and pensioners with grown-up
283 children, showed how outdoor play on streets had changed over the last three
284 generations. Nearly half of today’s children had never played on streets. In contrast,
285 47 % of those over 65 years of age recalled playing on the street everyday, and only
286 12 % had never played on the street (Living Streets 2009). Declines in children’s
287 outdoor or free play in the USA, Australia, and NZ have been reported over recent
288 generations in several recent studies (Carver et al. 2008; Clements 2004; Ergler
289 et al. 2013; Gray 2011; Mitchell et al. 2007).
290 Much of parents’ time is now spent ferrying children to and from organized
291 sporting events, which are organized into specific time periods. Many children
292 travel considerable distances to engage in a competitive sport for an hour or less
293 with children they may not see again: “It’s exhausting and inconvenient, not
294 integrated into people’s lives the way that play used to be ... I hear a lot of
295 complaints from parents and children both about the tiresome mechanics of making
296 it all happen” (Goodyear 2012). Another study, involving interviews with 40,000
297 Australian children aged 7–14 years, found that 87 % participated in some form of
298 organized sport, despite sport being low on their list of priorities (Malone 2007).
299 The study also identified the yearning for more free or unstructured time for
300 children to do their own thing (i.e., play).
301 In spite of the dangers (and the fears) associated with children’s use of the streets
302 (outlined above), children choose them for their play. In contrast with residential
303 streets, children rarely favor parks and playgrounds as spaces for play: “ever since
304 playgrounds were first constructed here [New York] at the turn of the century,
305 children in this city, as in others, have shown far less interest in them than planners
306 anticipated” (Hart 2002, p. 136). Hart believes that the main motive for the
307 development of playgrounds was the idea that children playing on streets
308 represented a threat to society. Playgrounds can be seen as a way to get children
309 off the streets into a contained environment:
310 Playgrounds were invented as a device for getting children off the street, away from bad
311 influences and under the control of known socializing agents. This is part of a wider trend in
312 Europe and the USA since the nineteenth century to segregate children from the adult world
313 and to stream them into age groups in all aspects of their life. (Hart 2002, p. 138)
8 P. Tranter
314 The main beneficiaries of this strategy are not children, but motorists, whose
315 freedom to use the streets is less impaired when children do not share the space. Not
316 only have streets regarded as inappropriate as play space, but children are now
317 increasingly denied the opportunity to use local streets to independently access the
318 “legitimate” play spaces of parks and playgrounds.
319 To make cities more child-friendly, what is needed is not more playgrounds, but
320 a greater effort in making the environment around children’s homes safer for play.
321 This is particularly important for young children, who are more dependent on the
322 environment immediately surrounding their home to meet their needs for play and
323 exploration (Abu-Ghazzeh 1998).
324 Children have a preference for play on the streets, and many studies have shown
325 that children do play on the streets, even if their presence on the streets now is far
326 less than in previous decades. In a study of 17 streets in older parts of Melbourne in
327 the late 1970s, researchers found that front yards were important for children, yet
328 most play occurred in the street itself (Gehl 1980). Researchers in Sydney investi-
329 gated children’s evaluations of their environment in suburbs throughout the city.
330 They discovered that when 9- to 11-year-old children were asked “What’s good”
331 about their neighborhood, high on the list of “good things” was “quiet streets for
332 play, bike riding” (Homel and Burns 1986). The opportunity to move and play
333 freely within their own environment is recognized by children themselves as a
334 positive indicator of an urban environment (Chawla 2002). Research with children
335 makes it clear that they would like to be able to explore their neighborhood streets
336 “if the streets were safe and if they had more free time” (Malone 2007, p. 518). In a
337 recent Melbourne study, more than one-third of parents reported that their children
338 usually played in the street (Veitch et al. 2006). “Playing in streets is a cultural
339 phenomenon, observed all over the world – in some countries more intensively than
340 others, offering children benefits that cannot derive from any other urban space”
341 (Galani and Gospodini 2013, pp. 1177–1178). These benefits are summarized in the
342 following section.
343 5 Advantages of Streets as Play Space
344 The value of residential streets as play space has been summarized by several
345 researchers (Appleyard 1980; Fotel 2009; Hart 2002; Jacobs 1961; Karsten and Van
346 Vliet 2006; Matthews et al. 1999; Thomson and Philo 2004; Tranter and Doyle
347 1996), as well as organizations lobbying for children’s right to play, including
348 Playing Out which provides “a resource for anyone who wants children to be able to
349 play out in the streets where they live” (Playing Out 2014c). (The Playing Out
350 website includes a link to the Tranter and Doyle (1996) paper in their list of research
351 and articles.)
352 Under the appropriate conditions, streets provide stimulating play activities
353 where it is arguably most needed by children – within walking distance from
354 children’s homes. As Tranter and Doyle (1996) explain, this is particularly impor-
355 tant for younger children, especially girls, whose home range is usually more
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 9
356 restricted than for boys. Children who can safely play on their local streets are not
357 dependent on their parents to drive (or accompany) them to local parks or sports
358 grounds. Street play provides an alternative outdoor activity for children who have
359 no interest or capacity for organized sport. This is particularly important for some
360 adolescent girls, for whom structured team sports are seen as overly competitive
361 activities requiring physical skills that not all young people have. When children are
362 limited to engaging in adult-organized activities or play in formal playgrounds, this
363 reduces their opportunities for unstructured play “particularly the kind of free play
364 that develops really important life skills, their physical well-being and their sense of
365 belonging” (Playing Out 2014c).
366 Allowing children to play in their streets also allows children to develop a sense
367 of place (Engwicht 1992; Jacobs 1961) and to get to know their neighborhood. It
368 allows children to engage in play that they want to participate in, where they have
369 control over the rules and format of their games, in contrast with organized sporting
370 or cultural activities, where children are obliged to play by the rules designed by
371 adults. The hard surfaces of the street are also ideal for many ball games, from
372 informal cricket and football to handball and tennis. Street play provides for
373 considerable flexibility and for the creation of children’s own play space features.
374 For example, they can bring play objects (e.g., balls, furniture) from their homes to
375 use in games in the street. Streets also provide opportunities for creative and
376 imaginative play:
377 Traditional street play is good for kids, and fun for kids, precisely because it allows them to
378 figure out how to use their environment in creative ways on their own,or maybe with the
379 help of adults who are doing their own socializing on the street. Kids call the shots
380 themselves, making a tree first base and a manhole cover second and the streetlamp third.
381 They figure out how to make fair teams, learn which scoring systems work and which don’t.
382 They learn which grown-ups they can count on to retrieve a lost ball, and how to knock an
383 errant football down from the branches of a tree. They get to know each other by creating
384 something together. (Goodyear 2012)
385 Street play helps give children the opportunity to explore their social relation-
386 ships and begin to understand their place within the local community. Children
387 develop a sense that they are an important and valued part of the local community,
388 rather than being alienated from it. If the streets are safe enough for children to play
389 in, they are also safe enough for children to use to walk or cycle to other play spaces
390 in their neighborhoods: to experience some level of independent mobility that
391 would not be available to them otherwise. This independent mobility is of value
392 for children’s social, physical, and emotional development, as well as their social-
393 ization with the community. While street play provides children with freedom, it
394 also provides them with a greater feeling of security in their play as parents, and
395 other adults can keep an eye out for children or listen for any signs that their
396 children may need support.
397 Residential streets are also important for the recreational activities of older
398 children and teenagers. Parkour and skating are two examples of how older children
399 use the streets in playful ways. Parkour is an activity where the aim is to get from A
10 P. Tranter
400 to B in the most efficient way, using only the power of the human body, and with the
401 aim of keeping momentum without causing damage. It is a form of movement
402 usually practiced in cities and involves seeing the potential for movement in a
403 different way from how it is viewed by most people (Gilchrist and Wheaton 2011).
404 Parkour differs from traditional sporting activity in that it is more inclusive and less
405 competitive and rule bound and provides risk taking with bounds: in short, it is
406 more “playful.” Parkour has been seen to have potential in encouraging youth
407 engagement in their local community, as well as physical activity and well-being
408 in ways that traditional sport fails to achieve (Gilchrist and Wheaton 2011).
409 As well as benefits for children, there are clear benefits for adults in neighbor-
410 hoods where children can safely play on the streets. Parents stand to benefit from
411 reclaiming the streets for play. In the short term, they benefit from increased
412 freedom from the time pressures associated with having to transport children to
413 organized play activities. In the longer term, they are likely to appreciate the greater
414 resilience and independence created by allowing children to play. Allowing the
415 street to be used for play allows adults to have contact with children that might
416 otherwise not be available to them. The segregation of adults and children has been
417 identified as problematic by several researchers. For example, playgrounds have
418 been critiqued as contributing to “childhood ghettoization” (Matthews 1995).
419 Arguing in a similar vein, Gillis (2008) used the metaphor of “islanding” to
420 highlight the way in which childhood is now fragmented, invisible, and separated
421 from community life (Moore 2014, p. 154). Using the streets as play space
422 effectively eliminates such “islanding.” When streets are used for play, as the
423 Playing Out organization explains,
424 Playing in the street increases a sense of community by bringing neighbours of all ages
425 together. It encourages feelings of belonging and shared responsibility. These qualities can
426 increase the safety of the neighbourhood.
427 The quality of the local environment is also enhanced when children play locally
428 in their streets. When this play takes the place of adult-organized activities such as
429 sport, this can significantly reduce motor vehicle trips and related health impacts
430 (e.g., pollution). When streets are safe enough for play, children are also more likely
431 to be allowed to walk or cycle to school, which can have significant effects on
432 reducing traffic volumes. Anyone who has noticed the significant reduction in
433 traffic congestion in many cities during school holidays will understand this
434 point. In the morning peak in the period between 8.30 am and 9.00 am, trips
435 accompanying children to schools constitute 21 % of the total trips made by all
436 people across Melbourne (Morris et al. 2001).
437 When children use streets, this also helps to develop stronger local ties between
438 adults, as children are very effective at breaking down the learned reserve between
439 adults. Thus, in a situation where children play on the streets, it is also more likely
440 that local adults will know local children. All of these features of streets as play
441 space make them attractive places for play.
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 11
442 6 Reclaiming the Residential Street as Play Space
443 Tranter and Doyle (1996) made a number of suggestions about how the residential
444 street might be reclaimed by children as a play space. These strategies included:
445 1. Lower motor vehicle speeds in residential streets, in association with the devel-
446 opment of area-wide schemes of traffic calming, rather than just individual
447 streets.
448 2. The involvement of professionals other than traffic engineers in the design of
449 streets. Tranter and Doyle also advocated working together with local residents,
450 including children, to design play environments in streets.
451 3. The widespread dissemination of the idea that children playing on the street
452 encourages stronger communities, with potential benefits for adults as well as
453 children.
454 4. The introduction “play streets” in all new residential developments.
455 5. A change in terminology away from “traffic calming” to “play streets” and the
456 active encouragement of the use of streets as play space, rather than simply
457 providing the conditions for this to occur (Tranter and Doyle 1996, p. 93).
458 Many of these suggestions have been acted on, at least in particular contexts, as
459 outlined in the subsections below.
460 6.1 Lower Speed Limits and Area-Wide Traffic Calming
461 Lower speed limits are arguably the quickest and most cost-effective strategy for
462 making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, including children. 30 km/h speed
463 limits have been introduced in a growing number of European cities, with a city-
464 wide 30 km/h limit introduced into Paris by the new mayor in 2014 (Britton 2014).
465 Nearly all streets in Paris will be 30 km/h apart from a small number of major axes
466 (50 km/h) and the city ring road (70 km/h). One of the first places to introduce a
467 city-wide 30 km/h limit was Graz, in Austria, where the 30 km/h limit was
468 introduced in 1992, on all but some major roads with a 50 km/h limit. The planners
469 and politicians introduced the lower speed limits even though the community did
470 not support their introduction. After 2 years, the lower speed limits had majority
471 support from residents (including motorists) who appreciated the increased livabil-
472 ity of the city (Hoenig 2000). Not only was there a 24 % reduction in accidents, but
473 there was a marked increase in cycling and other forms of active transport
474 (Woolsgrove 2013).
475 In Britain, the organization 20s Plenty for Us is a not-for-profit organization
476 advocating that 20 mph (32 km/h) be the default speed limit on residential and
477 urban streets. This organization has been instrumental in achieving a situation
478 whereby “an estimated 12.5 million people in the UK now [live] in areas
479 implementing or committed to widespread 20mph limits” (Brake: The Road Safety
480 Charity 2014). To increase the effectiveness of lower speed limits, some form of
12 P. Tranter
481 traffic engineering treatment is usually added, though this can be as simple as some
482 painted lines across the entrance to a street, or down the side of a street to make the
483 road appear narrower.
484 The logic of 30 km/h speed limits can be linked to the laws of physics, as well as
485 the psychology of feelings of safety. The law of kinetic energy explains why
486 pedestrian fatality risk is a function of the impact speed “ AU5with the fatality risk at
487 50 km/h being more than twice as high as the risk at 40 km/h and more than five
488 times higher than the risk at 30 km/h (Rosén and Sander 2009). As well, the
489 likelihood of avoiding any collision is much greater at lower speeds due to the
490 much lower stopping distances at 30 km/h compared with 50 km/h. Most motorists
491 have little appreciation of the huge increase in risk associated with even slight
492 increases in driving speed (Svenson et al. 2012). Svenson et al. (2012, p. 488)
493 illustrate how a 30 km/h speed compared with 50 km/h could mean the difference
494 between a child not being struck by a car (30 km/h) and being killed or seriously
495 injured (50 km/h):
496 We assume a reaction time of 1 s and at a speed of 30 km/h a car will travel 8.33 m during
497 that time before the brakes start to apply. If the speed is 50 km/h the corresponding distance
498 is 13.89 m. This is a little longer than the total stopping distance from 30 km/h (12.75 m).
499 This means that a driver who could stop from 30 km/h in front of an obstacle would hit that
500 obstacle at a speed of 50 km/h if she drove at 50 km/h under the same conditions.
501 This study also identified that drivers were “overly optimistic” about their ability
502 to stop quickly and showed little understanding of the impact of higher speeds on
503 their stopping ability. When drivers were asked what speed the car would hit the
504 child, the judged speeds of impact were always underestimated. The authors
505 suggested that this was an important consideration in attitudes to speed limits.
506 Despite the seemingly overwhelming logic of the above argument in support of
507 30 km/h speed limits, travel behavior change specialists understand that telling
508 someone that there is only a 5 % chance of being killed if you get hit by a car
509 traveling at 30 km/h is unlikely to engender a massive mode shift to walking and
510 cycling. More important is that when cars are traveling at 30 km/h or lower, this
511 results in a change in the psychological feel of the streets: they feel safer. When this
512 occurs, more pedestrians (adults and children) use the streets, thus contributing to a
513 safety in numbers effect (Jacobsen 2003). Parents feel more confident allowing
514 their children to play in (or beside) the street, both because of lower speeds, but also
515 because of lower fears of other dangers due to greater passive surveillance by
516 people in a community where people know each other as a result of frequent
517 interactions.
518 An important feature of the introduction of 30 km/h zones is that it is usually
519 implemented across large areas of cities, if not the entire city. The “area-wide”
520 traffic calming that Tranter and Doyle (1996) recommended is now a standard
521 practice, at least in many European cities where the needs of non-motorists are
522 given more consideration. This means that the culture of the entire city begins to
523 change to one in which children and active transport users have priority over cars,
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 13
524 and streets once again become places where walking, cycling, social interaction,
525 and playing become legitimate uses.
526 6.2 Traffic Engineers and Other Professionals Designing Streets
527 for Play
528 Researchers have known for a long time that street design influences children’s use
529 of the streets. One clear example of this is the research on cul-de-sac street designs,
530 which reduce child accidents significantly while at the same time encouraging
531 greater use of the street by non-motorists: culs-de-sac have been found to be an
532 important predictor of children’s outdoor play (Ben-Joseph 1995). However, cul-
533 de-sac design is not likely to provide the whole answer to reclaiming streets for
534 children’s play. One limitation is that this design does not bring children from a
535 wide area together. For this to happen, a design that is more permeable for
536 pedestrians and cyclists, but less so for motorized traffic, is more successful
537 (Biddulph 2011).
538 Tranter and Doyle identified as problematic the fact that traffic engineers have
539 the main responsibility for the design of residential streets. Two important devel-
540 opments go some way to addressing this issue of the dominance of the traffic
541 engineers. The first is that there are now new guidelines for traffic engineers in
542 some nations for the design of streets. The second is the introduction of new models
543 of street design, where other professionals (e.g., urban designers) as well as children
544 have had an impact.
545 The origins of a new approach to the design and use of streets can be traced back
546 to the Traffic in Towns report by Colin Buchanan’s team in the Ministry of
547 Transport, published in England in 1963. This team introduced the radical ideas
548 of “specific street zones called environmental areas or rooms,” where motor traffic
549 could be segregated from pedestrians or to slow motor traffic to allow a mixing of
550 pedestrians and motor vehicles (Ben-Joseph 1995, p. 505). These ideas proved to be
551 unacceptable to the dominant ideology of the time in Britain, which favored the
552 strategy of promoting economic growth through building roads and motorways.
553 The Traffic in Towns report did, however, have considerable impact in mainland
554 Europe: Dutch and German planners refer to Buchanan as “the father of traffic
555 calming” (Ben-Joseph 1995, p. 505). His ideas led to the development of the
556 “Woonerf” or “living yard” concept, where cul-de-sac designs led to the safe
557 coexistence of children playing and slow traffic, where “motorists would feel as
558 though they were driving in a ‘garden’ setting” (Ben-Joseph 1995, p. 506).
559 While the ideas of Colin Buchanan and his team may not have gained favor in
560 Britain in the 1960s, a new approach to innovative street design emerged in the UK
561 with the release of “The Manual for Streets” by the Department for Transport in
562 2007 (Biddulph 2011). This was crafted to encourage a flexibility in the use of
563 streets by a greater variety of street users and to embrace a new urban design agenda
564 where, for example, there is a “greater concern for the visual qualities of streets,” as
565 well as amenity and social interaction, and “the place function of streets may equal
14 P. Tranter
566 or outweigh the movement function” (Biddulph 2011, p. 4). The Manual for Streets
567 was heavily influenced by the observed impacts of “Home Zones” which had been
568 implemented from the late 1990s in Britain (Gill 2006).
569 As well as new approaches to traffic engineering adopted by the traffic engineers
570 themselves, the second development that challenged the dominance of traditional
571 traffic engineering was the increasing contributions of other professionals to the
572 design of residential streets. Urban designers and landscape architects have worked
573 together with local residents (including children) to design play environments in
574 their streets, while also allowing (controlled) access for motor vehicles. There is a
575 marked contrast in the goals of various professionals engaged in the creation of
576 streets. This is clearest between traffic engineers and urban designers, but also
577 evident in the differences between landscape architects, planners, and civil engi-
578 neers (Hamilton-Baillie 2004,2008). Traffic engineers operate in ways that legit-
579 imate the status quo, sometimes without doing so deliberately. An example of this is
580 their use of traffic crash data that suggest that our streets are becoming safer (with
581 fewer pedestrian deaths), which ignores an important reason for the lower deaths –
582 the removal of people (including children) from the streets.
583 As well as involvement in street design by architects and urban designers, a
584 range of approaches, some inspired by the arts community, have been adopted to
585 encourage a reconstruction of the meaning of residential streets. These have been
586 variously referred to as psychological street reclaiming or behavioral street
587 reclaiming (Engwicht 2005; Fotel 2009). Strategies such as storytelling and child-
588 led walking tours have been used to help communities accept new approaches to the
589 design and use of streets. One community in Kansas in the USA used storytelling
590 from local personal narratives to make their case for the introduction of “Complete
591 Streets” (where equal priority is given to all modes of transportation including
592 automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians). They used pictures of their community,
593 roads, and sidewalks to illustrate the severity of conditions or to describe how local
594 children were unable to cross streets to play because of the danger posed by unsafe
595 roads and sidewalks (Dodson et al. 2014). In another example, a community
596 cultural development organization in Brisbane, Australia, developed a project titled
597 “The Walking Neighbourhood Hosted by Children” (Hickey and Phillips 2013). In
598 this project, children aged eight to twelve led walking tours for groups of adults
599 through an inner city neighborhood known as being child-unfriendly. As well as
600 promoting walking as an arts experience, this project helped to raise awareness of
601 issues of child safety and their active citizenship (Phillips and Hickey 2013).
602 There are many other examples of using the arts to aid the process of psycho-
603 logical street reclaiming. An example on the Playing Out website illustrates the
604 power of small changes in residents’ behaviors to change the use of streets,
605 sometimes gradually, even over a period of years. Two members of a Bristol
606 performance and arts company ran a project they called “The Place I Call Home
607 Spills into the Street” which explored questions such as “Do you want to make your
608 street a more playful place?” with people in their own neighborhoods and to find out
609 whether small creative actions could stimulate new ways of seeing and using
610 streets. One participant explained:
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 15
611 I sat out on the step to do some crochet while the children played in the front garden. I guess
612 it was an unusual sight; one neighbour even asked if we’d been locked out! I stuck with it
613 though, adding some tentative chalk drawing ... After about 3 years of doing these small
614 things, it’s become really normal and I have regular chats with most of my neighbours. My
615 children, ages five and eight, are able to play outside independently, and they are often
616 joined by other local children. They can get their bikes out of the garage, chalk, play
617 football, hide, hunt for wildlife up the lane and hang out the front. They know everyone in
618 the street and do a good job managing emergencies such as a bike crash. The best part is that
619 they choose when to do all these things. (Playing Out 2014b)
620 6.3 Disseminating the Idea That Children Playing in the Street
621 Encourages Strong Communities
622 Research on social capital has identified the role of children in developing social
623 connections between people (Offer and Schneider 2006; Weller and Bruegel 2009).
624 Social connection has been identified as critically important in the health and well-
625 being of individuals and communities (Kawachi et al. 1999; O’Brien 2003). Tranter
626 and Doyle (1996) argued for the widespread dissemination of the reasoning that
627 children playing on residential streets would foster the development of stronger
628 neighborhood-based communities. Research indicates that when Home Zones are
629 established, adults spend more time in the street compared to the time spent in
630 traditional streets. Importantly, however, this is thought to be largely a response to
631 the presence of children playing in the street (Biddulph 2011).
632 Roger Hart has powerfully extended this argument to include not only local
633 neighborhood communities, but whole societies:
634 There are two major reasons why play should be a priority for city governments: first, play
635 is important to children’s development and, second, free play in public space is important
636 for the development of civil society and, hence, for democracy. (Hart 2002, p. 136)
637 Hetti Fox, a New York resident who actively promoted the use of streets in her
638 neighborhood as play space for children, made a similar argument:
639 “I sometimes wonder if this city is squandering its young people by not fighting to keep
640 neighborhood life intact,” she said. “Every species creates an environment where it protects
641 and nurtures its offspring. If you don’t, then you’re saying we’re not really a city.”
642 (Gonzalez 2009)
643 6.4 The Introduction of “Play Streets” in All New Residential
644 Developments
645 New residential developments typically have a higher percentage of children than
646 more established areas. Tranter and Doyle (1996) advocated “the application of the
16 P. Tranter
647 ‘play street environment’ concept in all new residential developments.” In Britain,
648 many new estates are now being built from scratch with the principles of Home
649 Zones in mind, and “shared streets” (based on the Woonerf concept) are now seen
650 as “a workable alternative to the prevailing street layouts in new suburban sub-
651 divisions” in the United States” AU6(Ben-Joseph 1995, p. 504). Ben-Joseph supports
652 this argument by pointing out that shared streets reduce the cost of new subdivi-
653 sions, as more space is allotted to housing and less to streets, and densities can be
654 increased without compromising privacy. “There is no doubt that shared streets
655 would be suitable for residential street layouts in the United States. Tailoring it to
656 American standards would be a matter of innovative design and appropriate
657 application” (Ben-Joseph 1995, p. 512). This argument likely applies to many
658 nations with low density, car-dominated cities.
659 6.5 A Change in Terminology Away from “Traffic Calming”
660 to “Play Streets”
661 Traffic calming was a term that became popular among planners and engineers in
662 the 1990s. Traffic calming was a controversial strategy, which sometimes prompted
663 angry reactions from residents. Tranter and Doyle suggested a change in the
664 language used to change the physical design of streets and to replace “traffic
665 calming” with the term “play streets.” Although “play streets” is not a term
666 commonly used to designate streets that are permanently available for children to
667 play (such as in Home Zones), the term has been widely adopted to indicate the
668 temporary closure of local residential streets to motor vehicles to promote their use
669 as play spaces.
670 The idea of play streets is now undergoing a resurgence, with play street
671 movements having considerable success in cities such as New York and London;
672 see Figs. 1and 2. The concept of “play streets” as temporary play spaces for
673 children can be traced back to the 1920s or even earlier. In New York, by 1920,
674 60 streets were closed to allow children to play during certain hours, a strategy that
675 was seen at the time as important for the “rights of play and child welfare” (Gaster
676 1992, p. 41). In Britain, the first official play street legislation was enacted in 1938,
677 and by the 1950s there were 700 play streets across England and Wales (London
678 Play 2014a). Though they had almost disappeared in Britain by the 1980s, they
679 experienced a revival from 2008, and in 2012, Hackney became the first borough to
680 reintroduce official play streets. The organization – “London Play” – hopes that
681 children will be inspired by the play streets program to revive the culture of play
682 that existed many decades ago (London Play 2014b). As a mother involved in a play
683 street in England explains: “A little bit inconvenient for motorists, but a very small
684 price for kids to be able to come out and play” (Gilbert 2014).
685 Like London, New York has encouraged some neighborhoods to reclaim their
686 streets for children’s play, at least during some daytime summer hours. The city
687 even has a “play streets” program:
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 17
688 Play Streets allows communities to open up their streets to pedestrians for play on a
689 recurrent basis. It is a quick and low-cost way to create active play space and is a health
690 measure that directly targets our city’s most important at–risk population—children.
691 (New York City Parks 2014)
692 Similar schemes can be found in other parts of the world, such as Belgium,
693 where Speelstraat programs operate. These work in much the same way as the play
Fig. 1 Play street in Pemberton Road in Haringey, north London, September 2014 (Photo by
London Play)
Fig. 2 Loose materials in a play street – Tylney Ave in south London, September 2014 (Photo by
London Play)
18 P. Tranter
694 streets in Britain or the USA, where residents formally request the city government
695 to temporarily close off a residential street to enable children to play.
696 While play streets programs are an important part of the change in culture that
697 will enable the reclaiming of the street for play, they are not without their critics,
698 who point out that they have to conform to a rigid agenda when the streets are not
699 available to play, and they often have adults in charge of structuring children’s
700 games. In one case, local police told the organizers that the play street had to stop at
701 5 pm, yet:
702 Those hours after 5 are special ...That’s when parents come home from work and can play
703 outside with their children. (Goodyear 2012)
704 One important limitation of the play streets program is that there is the danger of
705 making so many rules that “children playing on the streets” is seen as something
706 unusual and which can only be allowed under extremely regimented conditions.
707 Arguably, it would be much better to have an acceptance that entire residential
708 areas are spaces where children can legitimately use the street and that drivers must
709 always be aware that children (and others) could be using the streets for play or
710 simply for walking and cycling. The organization “Playing Out” recognizes these
711 limitations, arguing:
712 We are aware that the current model is not the long-term answer ... but until a real culture
713 of playing out is restored it is good to feel that there is a way to realize some of the benefits
714 of street play right now. (Playing Out 2014d)
715 Tranter and Doyle also advocated for the active encouragement of the use of
716 streets as play space, rather than simply providing the conditions for this to occur.
717 This active encouragement has occurred with several schemes in different nations,
718 all of which challenge the conventional view of streets as places for motorized
719 traffic.
720 7 Schemes for the Encouragement of Children’s Play
721 on Residential Streets
722 Examples of radical approaches to encourage children’s play in the street include
723 Woonerven in the Netherlands (Ben-Joseph 1995; Eubank-Ahrens 1985), Home
724 Zones in Britain (Clayden et al. 2006; Gill 2006), Shared Streets (Ben-Joseph 1995;
725 Hamilton-Baillie 2008), and Complete Streets, where equal priority is given to all
726 modes of transportation (e.g., the USA) (Dodson et al. 2014; LaPlante and McCann
727 2008). All of these approaches recognize the multiple roles that streets play in
728 community life, including the lives of children, and evidence shows that they
729 increase the likelihood that children will play in the streets (Biddulph 2011).
730 Perhaps the most radical example of shared space is extending a primary school
731 playground across the street in Noordlaren, a small village in the Dutch province of
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 19
732 Groningen. A conventional traffic engineering approach to this issue would be to
733 clearly segregate the children from the traffic, perhaps by using a more substantial
734 wall or higher fence between the play space and the street. Instead of taking the
735 conventional approach, the local authority tried a counterintuitive approach. They
736 removed the existing wall and let the school playground extend across the street.
737 The only separation between the school and the street is a low (knee-high) single
738 rail fence decorated with multicolored balls:
739 There are no road markings, signals or signs. Bright yellow benches extend into the road
740 area. It’s as if motorists are driving through a playground. Dutch traffic engineer Hans
741 Monderman persuaded parents and teachers that making the playground more, not less,
742 visible was the surest way to slow drivers down. Suddenly aware of the school, they would
743 think: ‘I am a guest here’ not ‘I am in charge.’ (Allianz 2014)
744 The idea worked, traffic speeds fell substantially, there were no accidents, and
745 children had a better understanding of traffic (Hamilton-Baillie 2008). The exten-
746 sion of the children’s school play area onto the street provides a powerful example
747 of the possible value of turning conventional wisdom about traffic engineering and
748 road safety on its head (Monderman et al. 2006).
749 Perhaps this idea of turning conventional wisdom on its head could even be
750 applied to the standard approaches to making streets safer for children, including
751 the formal designation of play streets, with specific speed limits and legislation. In
752 the Netherlands, there is a move away from any formal speed limits in residential
753 streets, and the concept of “naked streets” (streets with no signs at all) is gaining
754 acceptance, thanks to the innovative influence of people like Hans Monderman
755 (Monderman et al. 2006). In the Netherlands, some road safety policy-makers are
756 even questioning the concept of the Woonerf. Steven Schepel, Head of the Road
757 Safety Directorate at the Dutch Ministry for Transport and Public Works
758 commented that “the whole city should be one erf [courtyard]” (Hamilton-Baillie
759 2002).
760 This view echoes the argument of Tranter and Doyle (1996) that while local
761 schemes (including Woonerven, Home Zones, Shared Streets) have value in chal-
762 lenging the culture, such schemes have limitations. There is a need for city-wide
763 policies that challenge the dominance of the car. Isolated traffic calming or Home
764 Zones are ineffective when car ownership and use continue to increase. Home
765 Zones are not easily implemented across the entire city. While they have arguably
766 helped to change the view about all streets being for cars, they have had minimal
767 impact on the child-friendliness of large sections of cities. When specially desig-
768 nated streets in Home Zones, Woonerven, or Complete Streets appear, this can
769 imply that drivers must drive carefully in these zones, but it is acceptable to drive
770 less carefully in other parts of the city.
771 As well as street-specific approaches, a broad suite of policies is needed to
772 overturn the dominance of the motor vehicle in cities. These policies include
773 making all forms of active transport (which includes public transport) viable,
774 safe, and attractive to citizens of all ages. It may also require the realization and
20 P. Tranter
775 dissemination of the fact that private cars do not have the advantages that we think
776 they do. For example, when a holistic assessment of transport is undertaken, rather
777 than saving time, it can be seen that cars steal our time, our money, and our health
778 (Tranter 2014).
779 8 Conclusion: The Future of Children’s Play Spaces
780 For geographers concerned with children’s play, health, and well-being, an impor-
781 tant future challenge is the ability to take a broader and more holistic view of
782 children’s lives and the issues that affect them. The challenges for children’s
783 geographers include becoming more alert to the ways in which children, and in
784 particular their shrinking and increasingly adult-controlled lives, have been affected
785 by a set of interrelated changes in society. If children’s geographies are to have real
786 impacts on policy and practice, issues must be considered beyond the areas where
787 children’s views and rights have traditionally been seen as important (e.g., in the
788 design of children’s spaces such as parks, playgrounds, and leisure centers for
789 children and young people). Every aspect of city management and planning has
790 impacts on children’s lives, either directly or indirectly.
791 An important focus for future children’s geography research is the exploration of
792 the broader social, economic, and political context that has led to the loss of the
793 street as play space and the changes in these broad forces that may facilitate a
794 revised production of urban space and an eventual reclaiming of this space by and
795 for children. “As we move further into the twenty-first century, humankind will be
796 faced with a series of traumas, many of which are as yet unimagined” (Wilson and
797 Arvanitakis 2013). Some of the challenges we face are already becoming evident.
798 Rising urban populations and increasing densification of our cities are global
799 phenomena. In the context of bigger, more dense cities, if children are to have
800 access to spaces for play in their own neighborhoods, the conventional playground
801 is unlikely to be a solution, as competition for space intensifies. New ways of using
802 spaces in the city for play will be required. In some US cities (e.g., Houston and
803 Detroit), over 70 % of the urban space is made up of streets, while in the UK it is
804 around 30–40 % (Hamilton-Baillie 2004). As the “Playing Out” website explains:
805 Streets constitute the vast majority of public space in the city. To see them only as places to
806 drive and park cars is to massively undervalue them. Streets can and should be places where
807 people can sit, talk, read, play and walk – and even sing and dance if they want to! The only
808 way this will happen is if we start to use them differently. (Playing Out 2014a)
809 It is perhaps not too challenging to imagine a future where the private motor
810 vehicle is no longer the dominant form of transport in cities, either due to the
811 collapse of national or global economies (making the car unaffordable for mass
812 urban transport) or due to the realization that this continued reliance on cars is
813 incompatible with the goal of reducing the negative effects of climate change.
Children´s Play in their Local Neighborhoods: Rediscovering the Value of... 21
814 Reclaiming the residential street as play space could be an important strategy in
815 achieving two important goals. First, it could help prepare cities (and citizens) for a
816 future where cars are replaced by more sustainable forms of transport – a more just
817 distribution of mobility rights (Fotel 2009). More importantly, it could accelerate
818 the move to the sustainable modes of transport, which are also the child-friendly
819 modes. Walking, cycling, and public transport are child-friendly for three reasons:
820 children prefer them, children can use them independently, and when adults use
821 them, this does not make the city less child-friendly (as happens when adults use
822 cars). Thus, when sustainable modes become dominant, this could then help to
823 generate a virtuous feedback loop, where the growth in child-friendly transport
824 modes supports a public movement toward a city-wide approach to childhood,
825 where the whole city becomes a place that children can playfully and safely
826 explore. Such an approach would produce benefits for the health and well-being
827 of children and all city residents.
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26 P. Tranter
Index Terms:
Children’s play 2–22
Helicopter parenting 6
Neighbourhoods 2–22
Parental interventions 2
Play space 9–19
Residential street 2–22
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... A part of the safety focus is also an increased concern about the traffic situation in children's neighborhoods and the fear that children would be harmed by cars (Gielen et al., 2004;Gray, 2011;Jelleyman, McPhee, Brussoni, Bundy, & Duncan, 2019;Witten, Kearns, Carroll, Asiasiga, & Tava'e, 2013). Changes to urbanization, such as restrictions for children's access to residential streets, also contribute to the decline of outdoor, free, spontaneous and creative play (Tranter, 2015). The fast development of available technology that children spend their time on is also a factor that contributes to the decline of outdoor free play. ...
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