Car Free Day
Strong support for return of play streets
07 July 2020 I London Play
Most play street organisers are ready to consider reopening their streets for play - if councils give the green light, according to a survey by London Play.
Play streets in London have, with a few exceptions, been suspended over the lockdown period. But with public playgrounds coming back into use, children returning to school and other aspects of life returning to some version of normal, London Play is urging councils to support those residents that would like to reopen their streets for play.
There is no shortage of will; some 69 per cent of survey respondents said that they are keen to start or restart play streets as soon as possible, and a significant number had already held some kind of socially distanced meetups with neighbours. When asked what would give them the confidence to resume or start play streets, two thirds agreed that an edict from their local council or the government was key. Agreement from neighbours was unsurprisingly also important and around 60 per cent of respondents said that ideas on how to run socially-distanced play streets would aid their decision.
Some councils are already supportive
A few councils are already in favour; Camden and Croydon councils have confirmed to London Play that they are happy to support residents who want to restart play streets, provided they adhere to government guidelines. These two boroughs have also led the way with new resident-led initiatives to aid safe active travel and social distancing on local streets during the Covid-19 crisis. Camden invited residents to nominate streets to become no through roads and has subsequently issued Experimental Traffic Orders for seven schemes to be piloted over the next 18 months. Along with 10 new low traffic streets Croydon has pioneered Exercise Zones, where residents can request daily volunteer-facilitated closures of their streets to allow them to benefit from traffic free environments.
Katie Sansom, an organiser for a play street in Croydon, said she was excited at the prospect of being able to reopen her street for play. “After such a long time without social play with his peers my son is chomping at the bit to get out and about with friends,” she said. “With help from London Play, and anticipated support from Croydon Council over the coming weeks, we are looking forward to consulting again with our neighbours with the intention of creating a fun, outdoor and safe play street environment for all of our avenue’s residents. The current circumstances have brought us all closer together so it will be great to finally meet some of our new ‘virtual’ friends too. Go play streets!”
Help for organisers to plan with confidence
London Play has issued guidance to help organisers and councils plan post lockdown play streets with confidence.
“It is clear that play streets will not look like they used to for some time,” said London Play deputy director Fiona Sutherland. “But if anything, play streets are less risky than public playgrounds when it comes to potential transmission of coronavirus. They offer a simple way of opening up additional public space for play, literally on people’s doorsteps. We are not advocating public gatherings and organisers should continue to heed government guidance on social distancing.”
A significant minority of survey respondents (24 per cent) said that although they would like to restart their play streets, they felt it was currently too risky to do so. Chief among the concerns were the difficulties of imposing social distancing between children, especially the younger ones.
London Play’s view, supported by an ever-increasing body of evidence, is that the risk of allowing children to play together outdoors is very low, and significantly outweighed by the benefits. Based on such evidence, children in Scotland under the age of 12 are now permitted to play together outside without social distancing and London Play is hopeful that England may soon follow suit.
Our friends at Playing Out have made a very eloquent and comprehensive argument in favour of restarting play streets as we emerge from lockdown. Read it here.