Bollards are booming since the 9/11 bombings in the United States and more recent vehicular terrorism in London (and elsewhere). Bollards and other defensive architecture may protect buildings and sidewalks from vehicles, but they typically don’t encourage people to come enjoy public spaces.
The playgrounds are much more open-ended. They also have riskier, more adventurous elements, like giant tree houses or huge slides. So they attract a much wider age-range. A lot of the playgrounds here are very small. You can’t get high up, which is something people like: giant swings, big spinners, tall slides. There’s a lot of physical stimulation in the environment there. I was seeing people 85 years old going down three-story tall slides. When Grandma is climbing three, four sets of stairs over and over again to go on these slides, you know there’s something special happening.
As Minnesotans know, the end of winter brings green leaves and potholes. Fixing potholes and repairing sidewalks are important Spring tasks, but in the meantime perhaps we might simply enjoy them with The Pothole Gardener.
As someone who is only temporarily middle-aged, I’m hoping to live in a place where being old is not made more difficult by my built environment. Northfield might be that place by the time I get old. The Northfield City Council just heard a presentation from a group working for an Age-Friendly Northfield using the AARP Age-Friendly Communities model which could help make our streets, neighborhoods, and human connections better for older people (and younger ones, too – think of the 8-80 idea).
Sarah Goodyear doesn’t want us to have fun. She complains fun urban tricks like swings, slides and games are “dangerously beside the point” of making cities safer, cleaner and more livable.
I think this criticism misses the point. Swings and slides are not “design solutions” and I don’t believe they’re intended to solve big city problems. No one is proposing substituting crosswalk pong for better pedestrian design and to make city residents safer on the streets.
Little bits of fun and delight help make the city a better place to live or visit, a better place to advocate for larger/deeper solutions and a better place to connect with other people. Building small scale, small budget fun into the city helps encourage larger cultural climate change which can help create advocates for better design, safer pedestrian facilities, and more livable cities because people want to be there.
For a small city like Northfield where it is almost always more obvious and more convenient to drive, an excuse to get out of the car and play is needed. Playing pong here:
might get a few more people walking and a few of those might think “Let’s fix this stroad so it’s easier, safer and more fun to cross.” Then, maybe one person starts advocating for substantial change.
British football fans may soon be able to have more fun than just the game at St. James Park in Newcastle. Slides from the stadium seating 53,000 to the parking area and train station are planned and waiting for approval. Utrecht’s “travel accelerators” got the ball sliding, so to speak, and Newcastle is looking to make the slides part of a pocket park near the stadium. As one of the slide designers noted: “We want people to ride the slide, then go up the stairs and do it again.”