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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, limiting their ability to navigate and experience streets environments. Additionally, numerous children do not have adults available to teach them biking skills. This lack of exposure to public infrastructure hinders their ability to learn safe practices from an early age, potentially increasing their vulnerability in real traffic situations. Traffic gardens address this issue by providing both educational and essential safety functions in communities. The design of traffic gardens varies based on the skills being taught, available space, and construction resources. Despite these differences, all traffic gardens share a common goal: creating a safe environment for children to walk, roll, and ride bicycles. Some sites have even added murals, fostering collaborations and enhancing the space's creative appeal.

Watch this 2-minute traffic garden explainer!

Great 1-minute video of a traffic garden in action!

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

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.

 

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'. 

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TRAFFIC GARDEN
PARK

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.

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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.

TRAFFIC GARDEN COURT

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Pop-Up
Traffic Garden 

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.

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Mobile
Traffic Garden Kit

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.

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:

SIDEWALKS

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. 

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PAVED STREETS

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

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PAINTED STREETS

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.

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INTERSECTIONS

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

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Mini-BUILDINGS

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.

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Traffic SIGNS 

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

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MOBILE EQUIPMENT

Some sites provide bicycles while others focus on pedal cars, and battery-powered electric vehicles. These sites may also permit outside wheeled devices like bikes and scooters. Most public traffic gardens in the U.S. rely on kids to bring their own rolling devices. 

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Art &
Murals

Traffic Gardens are fantastic places to add artwork.  Some sites have added colorful surface murals as the space is ideal for such collaborations. Others have memorialized local people or represented the community through installations or other artistic ways.

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OTHER FEATURES

Some common traffic garden additions include benches (for adults), picnic tables, trees (for shade), and plazas (for organizing groups and lessons). Some traffic gardens even have elements like car washes or EV parking.

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STORAGE

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 storing bicycles and associated equipment like pumps and helmets.

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