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What is a traffic garden?

A traffic garden is a set of small-sized streets with scaled-down traffic features where children and other new learners practice, learn and have fun in a place that is free from motor vehicles. Traffic Gardens are known by many terms including Safety Towns, Safety Villages, Road Tracks, and Traffic Playgrounds. These spaces are designed to provide a practical, hands-on way to learn about biking skills, road safety, and how traffic works. They serve as a controlled environment where kids can gain confidence and master these critical life-long skills.


In the United States, many children lack access to safe streets and infrastructure so that they can experience getting around streets. In addition, many children do not have adults available to teach them biking skills. This lack of experience using public infrastructure hinders their ability to learn safe practices from an early age, potentially increasing their vulnerability in real traffic environments. Traffic gardens, therefore, not only fulfill an educational role but also an essential safety function in many communities.

Traffic garden design varies depending on what skills are being taught, the space available, or the resources to construct one. Regardless of the type, all traffic gardens have one thing in common: they create a world to safely walk, roll, and ride bicycles. You can read more about them in Ilana Bean's essay at Guernica. For a great resource on the history of traffic gardens, we recommend Ian McMurray's essay here.

Topographical image of a generic map

Traffic Garden Maps

These mini-street networks are found all over the U.S. and Canada as well as in many other spots around the world.  This map is an ongoing project aimed at locating traffic gardens in North America. 

Map Key:

Traffic garden courts (green icons) = Representations of street networks created on hard surfaces by applying markings.

Traffic garden parks (blue icons) = Interconnected miniature streets in a network.


Please message Fionnuala with any new information to update the map. 

Traffic Garden Types

There is no one 'typical' traffic garden design style, but instead many variations of layouts and much local character evident in the features. In some cases, such as Safety Villages, they involve programming that is about much more than 'traffic safety'. 


Traffic Garden Park: Outdoor mini-street network with asphalt streets, usually curbed. Standalone facilities may be staffed plus bikes and pedal devices supplied. When part of larger facility, traffic garden parks are  intended for  active play, with users typically supplying their own bikes.


These feature surface-applied pavement markings creating a miniature street network in a dedicated outdoor space. They are available for  programs or active play. Typically, users provide their own pedal devices. Staffing and buildings are less common at these sites.


This is a portable kit to create a temporary traffic garden, inside or outdoors. Temporary installation ranges from single-class assembly to full-length summer camps. Accompanying programming is run by local organizations with educational goals, and may involve students in the design and assembly of the traffic garden.


Safety Villages and Cities are similar to traffic gardens in that they deploy a miniature set of streets. However, they usually provide broader safety education programs including fire and life safety skills.


These traffic gardens are part of a larger theme park. They're intended as fun,  traffic-themed active play, and their design is generally similar to that of traffic garden parks. They may include popular children’s characters or other commercial toy tie-ins, and generally require paid admission.


These small-scale traffic gardens are  included as commercial building amenities, and can be located either indoors or outdoors. You might find them as part of a play area at shopping mall, or in an apartment building. This type of traffic garden is intended as a family amenity to allow active play.

Traffic Garden Features

Traffic gardens range from lines painted on a parking lot to small-scale cities with electric cars, buildings, and operating traffic equipment. Much depends on facility size, funding, construction, available equipment, and target demographic. Because of the lack of standard design guidance, facilities often have some unique features and exhibit a lot of local character as well as reflect the specific work of the folks who championed them originally. Some sites have evolved over time, while some remain exactly as they were originally designed and built. Here are some common traffic garden features from existing traffic gardens:



These traffic gardens have asphalt or concrete streets, with or without curbs. Some feature two-lane two-way streets, long straightaways, roundabouts, and intersections.


These traffic gardens are created by the painting of a street network on asphalt. They may feature two-lane two-way streets, long straightaways, roundabouts, intersections and other features, like parking.


When traffic gardens include sidewalks, they can be concrete with physical curbs or painted representations (usually gray) on asphalt or concrete. The sidewalks usually run alongside the road edge and to pedestrian crossing points. 


Many traffic gardens feature 3-way and 4-way intersections or roundabouts. Pedestrian crossings are typically included and sometimes railroad crossings are featured also.


Traffic garden buildings can range from painted outlines on asphalt to volunteer-constructed boxes, or even detailed replicas of local landmarks. Often, these feature signs from a local sponsor.


Traffic gardens include reduced-scale stop signs, yield signs, crossing signs, directional signs, crossbacks, and working signals. Occasionally, the local public works department will donate signs.


Some common traffic garden additions include benches (for adults), trees (for shade), and plazas (for organizing groups and lessons). Some traffic gardens even have car washes, filling or charging stations, and repair shops.


Storage is generally needed whenever a traffic garden has portable features or mobile equipment. This usually takes the form of an onsite locked shed, which may also be used for repairs and charging vehicles.


 Some sites provide bicycles, pedal cars, and battery-powered electric vehicles. These sites may also permit outside pedal equipment. Many public traffic gardens rely on kids to bring their own equipment.

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