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What is a traffic garden?
A traffic garden is a set of small-sized streets with scaled-down
traffic features and urban elements where children and their families
learn about and practice using streets in a fun and safe manner.
Traffic gardens vary 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 for kids
to safely walk, roll, and ride bicycles.
There is no one 'typical' traffic garden design style, but instead many variations of layouts and much local character evident in the features. What they all have in common is that they create a miniature network of streets that engages the imagination of children as they learn and have fun. In some cases, such as Safety Villages, they involve programming that is about much more than 'traffic safety' and they educate on such topics as fire prevention, household poisons, water safety and other important life lessons. For purposes of this website, we focus on the traffic-related elements of all the different styles of facilities and have organized them into the following typology:
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.
TRAFFIC GARDEN COURT
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 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.
SAFETY VILLAGES & CITIES
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.
THEME PARK TRAFFIC GARDEN
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.
TRAFFIC GARDEN BUILDING ELEMENT
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 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.
SIGNS & SIGNALS
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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