Street as playground

Mavikurt, Aslı Ceren.
In today’s car-dominated cities, children (as well as other members of the public) have limited freedom to use streets, unless they are driving their cars through them. Urbanization has resulted in higher density housing, increased transportation, industry, associated pollution and changes in technology. These were accompanied by a reduction in children's independent mobility, associated contact with nature especially in cities (Wang et al., 2017) and freedom of using streets. Today, unavailability of the streets –as outdoor places and spaces- for most of the pedestrian oriented functions, limits children’s everyday activities and experiences, necessary for their healthy development. This is mainly because streets are increasingly being taken over by motorized traffic; they have become dangerous, which also had an effect on playability. Along with these reasons, technology’s affect in everyday life resulted in a change in children’s mobility patterns and play preferences. Streets are public spaces, but now vehicles dominate the use of these public places and eliminate most other functions that streets used to have historically. The quality and use of streets are continuously decreasing particularly in cities due to increasing car traffic problem, and due to the design characteristics, that aim at accommodating this traffic, either flowing or parked. This has led to a drastic decrease in children’s presence in public urban space, and children’s play dynamics have shifted from outdoors to indoors. However, children’s independent mobility and outdoor play is important for children’s development and well-being; and especially home street has a significant value for children with its diverse possibilities via its location. Children learn, develop and interact by playing, and they need peer interactions to develop socially. 1. How can streets become playgrounds for children to run freely and play games even in today’s car-dominated urban areas? 2. Can the two functions of streets, i.e. accommodating motorized traffic and providing outdoor play areas for children, co-exist? 3. What is design’s role in helping these two functions co-exist? Child-friendly environments fall into the realm of urban design and children’s needs also change along with the changing environment that surrounds them. This study focuses on “loss of play spaces for children as a spatial and social problem” and aims at answering the following questions: In order to answer these questions, the study presents a comprehensive literature review on the subject, together with some good practice examples from around the world. These examples and the literature reveal various criteria and indicators that can help design streets to include children’s needs, as well as analyse playability of streets. These criteria and indicators are incorporated into a planning and design framework, which can be used as a design guideline. This framework and its indicators are then applied to analyse the project of playground streets in Ankara, implemented by the Çankaya Municipality.