Play streets

| December 14, 2010

The city can be a health-promoting place and stimulate the citizens’ taste for physical activity, but it can also promote disease through noise and air pollution. Odense has decided that they want to belong in the first category!

By Connie Juel Clausen, Municipality of Odense

A few years ago, ”play street” was a term in the Road Act referring to a stretch of road that, via a stringent physical design, got its name. However, the term is changing rapidly at the moment, and several cities are working actively to integrate urban and traffic planning so as to create livelier and more coherent cities with more room for the citizens.

The city can be a health-promoting place and stimulate the citizens’ taste for physical activity, but it can also be promote disease through noise and air pollution. Odense has decided that they want to belong in the first category!

More and more people opt out of organised athletic activities and instead chose to exercise in a different way that is better integrated with their daily routines – we want to exercise in our free time, perhaps right before of after the workday begins or ends. In other words: the needs of the citizens in terms of what the urban space has to offer are changing.

With the vision that “to play is to live”, Odense has created three new interesting urban spaces during 2010 – all of them streets that inspire play and physical activity, and where bicycles and pedestrians are welcome, but cars only to a limited extent.

Roars Vej
Roars Vej is right next to an old school, and there were two problems: first, during morning rush hour many parents drove into the small dead-end street to drop off their children, chaos being the result; second, the school could not offer the students particularly good conditions during recess, as the school yard was very small.
The project on Roars Vej was the first play street to be opened in Odense. In addition to limiting traffic right by the school in the morning, the new play street has contributed to giving the children better options for physical activities and inspiring games. On the play street you will find circles, rectangles, a table with many colours, a dartboard and darts, and more. All of it is meant to invite to more movement and active learning!

Carl Baggers Vej
Carl Baggers Vej is in a residential neighbourhood in Odense, and here they have built a “play island”. Other than the fact that this requires a significant reduction of speed, and that the street thereby is traffic calmed, there is nothing in this project that promotes cycling as such, except that peaceful surroundings invite people to play on bicycles as well.

Vestergade
Vestergade differs from the two other streets in that it used to be a bus/bicycle street, which politicians had long wanted to change into a pedestrian street. However, in connection with a survey of urban life, it was estimated that there might be too few visitors on this stretch to create a new pedestrian street, and there was also a problem of how to lead the large number of cyclists through the city via a different route. Therefore, they decided to turn the stretch into shared space where the cyclists are recognised as the element that creates life in the street.

It has proven necessary to establish a bump for the cyclists in order to keep their speed down, and the street was only truly accepted as shared space when items such as table tennis were set up. For the cyclists it is not the most optimal route in terms of getting from A to B, but in terms of experiences it is one of the best cycle routes in Odense.

Cycling games in Odense
Altogether, cycling is high on the agenda in Odense. Right now they are planning a bicycle playground in the middle of the city. The planning takes its point of departure in the book “20 Cykellege” (20 Cycling Games) published by the Danish Cyclists’ Federation, and gives the children the opportunity to practice their cycling skills, such as breaking and steering with one hand. Also, Odense has recently opened the first street with robotic play – but here bicycles are not welcome, so that is a different story.

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Category: Children, Infrastructure, Newsletter 2

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