Levelling the Playing Fields Kingston is a project run by the Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation in partnership with BGC South East (formerly the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston & Area). This initiative is being evaluated by researchers from the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s University. The fundamental goal of this project is to pilot two types of street-based interventions, School Streets and Play Streets, in Kingston neighbourhoods. Levelling the Playing Fields aims to build upon existing knowledge about these interventions and provide additional findings on their feasibility and sustainability in a Canadian context.
Unlike pre-existing pilot School and Play Streets in Canada, which have run for episodic and brief periods of time, we aim to test sustained School and Play Streets over an entire year, including snowy winter months. The partnership with Queen’s University department of Urban and Regional Planning will also permit these interventions to be critically evaluated in a way that is currently missing in the literature.
What are Play Streets?
A Play Street is a residential street temporarily opened for play by reducing and calming vehicular traffic. They offer children safe outdoor spaces in their own neighbourhoods, by closing streets to through traffic and calming any local traffic for a few hours a week. The main goal is to create a space that people of all ages and abilities can use creatively. Recent research shows that Play Streets may enable children to be active more often and for longer periods of time by promoting children to replace indoor activities with outdoor play. They have also been associated with a reduction in parental fears about traffic accidents and stranger danger and an increase in the perception of security and social cohesion in neighbourhoods, providing benefits for entire communities.
What are School Streets?
School streets involve closing streets around elementary schools to both school and through traffic for 30-60 minutes before and after the school day. Vehicles are not permitted to enter the street during these times unless they have an exemption (school buses, local residents, etc). The fundamental aim of School Streets is to encourage safety and active transport to school. School Streets guarantee that some active transportation happens for at least part of the journey to school. This is critical to building children’s capacity for independent mobility, and eventually, for their engagement in active transportation for longer distances, and ultimately for the entire journey to school. School Streets also provide a calmer, quieter, and cleaner zone for children to arrive and depart from school, which may help parents feel more comfortable allowing their children to use Active Transportation to get to school.