Why Play Streets?
Play Street initiatives are growing in popularity around the world to address declining levels of independent mobility, free play and active transportation in elementary school-aged children. By closing residential streets to through traffic, Play Streets offer a multitude of benefits for children, parents and local residents. Specifically, Play Streets:
- Foster opportunities for children to become independently mobile and use active transportation;
- Promote social cohesion among children and among residents, by creating space for children and neighbours to informally interact;
- Provide informal opportunities for children to engage in physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviours;
- Promote creative thinking and cognitive development, by creating opportunities for free play; and
- Improve road safety on the Play Street and surrounding streets by increasing driver awareness and creating more opportunities for education and conversations on road safety.
Do these initiatives only benefit children?
By offering an environment with reduced vehicle traffic, and by creating opportunities for neighbours to increase their socialisation, Play Streets also offer benefits to adult residents. Other Play Street projects have observed an increase in neighbourhood cohesion and adult physical activity levels, generating benefits for residents beyond only children in the community.
Where else is this being done in Canada?
Play Streets have been tested in Toronto and Kingston. There are also Play Streets being piloted in two Montreal neighbourhoods (launching September 2021) and a neighbourhood in Vancouver (launched Summer 2021). The initiative in Toronto, called StreetPLAY, was positively received by parents and non-parents in the community and demonstrated their potential success in other neighbourhoods. The Play Streets in Kingston were run by Kingston Gets Active, a partner in this project, in the Kingscourt neighbourhood. The Play Streets in Kingscourt were only one-day events, however, they were well received by residents and demonstrated there is interest and support for the creation of more Play Street initiatives in Kingston.
Why does this area need a play street when children can play at the park or in their yards?
Even in neighbourhoods where there are many places to play, the advantage of a Play Street is that children can engage in play and physical activity without having an organized ‘play date’ or being accompanied by an adult, which is generally at the whim of an adult’s interest and availability. It has been found that 71% of adults played in the street or neighbourhood as children, compared to only 21% of children today. As you can imagine, this greatly reduces children’s opportunities to engage in physical activity if their only opportunities are in structured activities and pre-planned trips to the park. As well, research on Play Streets in the UK found that outdoor free-play on Play Streets was more likely to replace sedentary and screen-based activities than organized physical activity.
Play Streets also offer important social benefits to children that they cannot get from playing in their own yard. Play Streets give children the opportunity to meet and form new friendships with other children in the neighbourhood whom they might not otherwise meet. It also provides more space for more freedom and creativity in outdoor play. As children are experiencing high rates of social isolation and increased reports of loneliness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we think providing opportunities for children to socialize is critically important.
Will any vehicles be permitted to enter the street during the closure period?
When the Cheryl Place Play Street is in operation, local residents will still be able to come and go from their homes as they please. Volunteers standing at the entrance to Cheryl Place will move barricades to allow vehicles to enter but we ask that all vehicles drive at a walking pace once they have entered the Play Street. We will not be requiring residents to prove their address to enter the Play Street, however, we hope that signage will discourage any through traffic or vehicles using the street to turn around. Visitors and deliveries will also be permitted to enter the street during Play Street hours. Visitors will not need to explain their reason for entering the street to a volunteer, but will have to wait for a volunteer to chaperone them through the street and will be asked to drive at a walking pace.
Would this initiative run in the winter? What about snow clearing and waste removal?
This initiative will run from September 2021-August 2022 and therefore will run throughout the winter months. The implementation team will coordinate with the City’s Public Works department to ensure the schedules for snow clearing and waste removal do not conflict with the Play Street closure times.