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This Garden Grows Safe Bicyclists

Aspiring cyclists of any age can safely practice their pedaling

A child practices riding a bicycle in a Bike Safety Park near Seattle, Washington

Photo courtesy Cascade Bicycle Club

Cyclists of all ages and abilities can benefit from learning how to share streets with cars and pedestrians.

Green light: Go! Children on two wheels are zipping around a new bicycle playground in King County, Washington, pausing for pint-sized traffic lights and navigating realistic turn lanes.

The White Center Bike Playground, designed and built in 2016 by the Cascade Bicycle Club and its community partners, features a small-scale, closed course streetscape, complete with lane markings, signage, crosswalks, intersections, one-way roadways, a roundabout and more.

The second of its kind in Washington State, the playground is a space where cyclists of all ages can learn the rules of the real roads and hone their skills in a safe, comfortable setting.

"It's not about learning to ride a bike. It's about learning to ride a bike safely. I thought it was a fantastic idea!"

— Elizabeth Kiker about the White Center Bike Playground

Like LEGO and Danish pastry, the concept of a bike playground is an import from Denmark, which has several bicycle playgrounds — sometimes called traffic gardens — including the Children's Traffic Playground in Copenhagen, where the streetscape includes child-only traffic lanes.

After seeing the Danish model, Seattle-based landscape architect Steve Durrant of Alta Planning + Design discussed the idea with the Cascade club. He offered to design the playground.

Elizabeth Kiker, then executive director of Cascade, was familiar with the concept after being involved in building a bike playground, called a "learning loop," in Arlington, Virginia.

A $75,000 King County Youth Sports Facilities Grant helped pay for the construction. The new bicycle playground replaced two rarely used tennis courts in White Center, an ethnically diverse, unincorporated community about 8 miles south of Seattle. (The YES Foundation of White Center and the White Center Community Development Association were involved in the effort, too.)

This article is an excerpt from the "Community Engagement" chapter of the AARP book Where We Live: Communities for All Ages — 100+ Inspiring Ideas From America’s Community Leaders. Download or order your free copy.

Book published June 2017 

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