Philadelphia's Newest Children's Attraction: Playing

In 2017, the Center for Disease Control reported 5,977 pedestrians were killed in the United States due to traffic-related accidents. Another estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal crash-related injuries. With these numbers, it is statistically believed that a pedestrian is 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a car crash versus the passengers in a vehicle. Furthermore, older adults and children tend to be most at risk. In 2017, one in five children that were killed in traffic accidents were pedestrians. The CDC noted that most pedestrian deaths occurred at night and in urban areas, where the population may be denser.

Due to these grim numbers, Philadelphia, a city in Pennsylvania, decided to open up what they call the “Lil’ Safety Village.” Inspired by Copenhagen’s Traffic Playground, the park opened in 1974 to give children the opportunity to practice their skills of riding bicycles and learning to interact with other traffic. Copenhagen’s interactive playground includes small roads, traffic lights, crosswalks, roundabouts, bus stops, and even small road signals reduced in size to help match the children’s perspective.

So, with over 1.5 million citizens living in this populous city, the safety village encourages kids to hone their skills as both pedestrians and riders in a big city. When deciding where to place the playground, the directors of the project wanted to guarantee it was placed in an area that “served populations that are historically underserved by these types of facilities” and overlapped with the High Injury Network.

The park is situated in what is called a “High Injury Network” meaning it has the highest rates of injuries and fatalities per mile. This zone, which makes up just 12% of Philadelphia’s streets, has some grim numbers. Within this radius, 80% of all traffic deaths and serious injuries occur. Leroy Fishes, the co-founder and president of Hunting Park United said the playground is a “great start to teach the rules of the world.” Sarah Clock Stuart, Bicycle Coalition Executive Director spearheaded the project after visiting Copenhagen’s Bike Playground. As there currently continues to be a huge demand for bicycles amid the coronavirus epidemic, Stuart says she hopes to bring “programming to the park and teach bike riding to both kids and adults.”