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PLAY STREETS

Reclaiming the streets for our kids

Joyride | 9 Feb 2018 | 6 min read

Reflecting on my childhood, I conjure up memories of street cricket in fading light, billy cart racing until my fingers bled and, as the street lights flickered on, the sound of my mother's voice finally calling us to the dinner table.

We took full advantage of the blistering hot summer tarmac - it was our unofficial playground, a blank canvas for any type of game we cared to invent and the source of many a gravel rash.

That was the 70's and the backstreets of Melbourne were an innocent place. In 2018, the world has changed irrevocably. Perhaps we've simply moved on, and our kids have found more exciting pursuits, however I feel mine are worse off for not competing in the neighbourhood battles that took place on my street as I grew up.

'Play Streets' helps residents work effectively with councils to create temporary car-free roads. 'Play Streets' helps residents work effectively with councils to create temporary car-free roads.

Perhaps though, that is finally all about to change.

Prising the iPad from my 8 year olds surprisingly powerful grip, provided us the first opportunity to share with him a taste of my childhood as we introduced him to a street temporarily devoid of traffic. Freedom to roam the road fearlessly, to dominate the very thing he'd been warned so frequently to stay clear of.

Like a scene from a nature documentary, neighbourhood children instinctively descended onto the street one by one, as if drawn towards a hypnotic light or responding to a rallying call. It was not so foreign to them afterall. Spontaneously, a makeshift wicket was drawn up on the road and a telegraph pole was re-purposed as stumps. Stray items were re-imagined as cricket bats as an argument broke out almost immediately about 'six-and-out' rules.

No instruction was required – kids naturally finding their own way and inventing their own playground pecking order.

Bikes and skateboards gradually emerged from driveways and parents who were once strangers were talking. Bikes and skateboards gradually emerged from driveways and parents who were once strangers were talking.

Bikes and skateboards gradually emerged from driveways and parents who were once strangers, nodding to each other on bin night, were talking, laughing and even enjoying a glass of Aperol Spritz as they gave a casual glance in the direction of their children.

The change that had taken place was an initiative to temporarily return the streets to a space for kids to enjoy active play and physical activity in their own streets. 'Play Streets' helps residents work effectively with councils to create temporary car-free roads.

Having taken off in the UK and US, Play Streets is now in Australia and being supported by VicHealth amongst others, keen to see children play safely on our streets.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said supporting kids to get active is critical for their health and wellbeing.

"We know that currently four in five children aged 5 to 17 years aren't getting the physical activity they need to be healthy – this is particularly evident in disadvantaged communities," Ms Rechter said.

What was once forbidden territory, has now become an extension of our own backyard, providing adventurous minds the scope to terrorise the neighbourhood, just as 8 year olds should. What was once forbidden territory, has now become an extension of our own backyard, providing adventurous minds the scope to terrorise the neighbourhood, just as 8 year olds should.

"We're proud to support innovative projects like Play Streets that help Victorian families make getting active a fun, safe and easy part of their day."

What was once forbidden territory, has now become an extension of our own backyard, providing adventurous minds the scope to terrorise the neighbourhood, just as 8 year olds should. And what was second nature to me in my childhood has now become an equal pleasure for my son – and a moment of shared connection.

If you're interested in running your own Play Street, contact playstreets@codesignstudio.com.au