Bike Newton to Teach Road Safety with ‘Traffic Garden’

Bike Newton has launched a new project—a “Traffic Garden” in Newton as a venue for teaching “on-road safety” off-road, to kids and adults. The Traffic Garden would be a park that simulates real road conditions in a space that might be the size of a couple of tennis courts. It will include intersections, roundabouts, transit stops. This is a concept that is very popular in northern Europe. Our best spokesperson for this idea is Williams School 4th grader Julian Phillips, the 9 year old son of Nathan Phillips, member of the Bike Newton Steering Committee.

At the Newton Bike Update on Sept 15 at the War Memorial Auditorium, we heard from Julian. Here is what he had to say: “Hi, my name is Julian. And today I want to talk about a traffic garden. So, what is a traffic garden?

“A traffic garden is a place for kids – and parents – to learn about traffic safety-car, bike, scooter, anything. It’s basically a city, but in miniature! Why do we need a traffic garden? Kids that scoot or bike to school face a lot of challenges on the way to school—things like hidden driveways or turning cars. We want to help them be safer on the road.

In a traffic garden, kids get to play all the roles: scooting, biking, walking, even driving a car (pedal- powered)! They get to see and learn how to handle all the safety issues–in a safe and fun way! I had the chance to go to a traffic garden in the Netherlands, called Verkeers Park. It was so fun, families paid to get in! I think it will take a lot of work, but together we can do it! Thank you.”

Bike Newton has determined that there is space in the park at the Mason Rice School that would be ideal for this facility. Candace Havens, the recently retired Newton Director of Planning and a Newton resident is very enthusiastic about this prospect. We are working with Bob DeRubeis, Parks & Recreation and Dawn Fleming, Safety Officer for the Newton Police Department. We will also be approaching the School Department and the School Committee for collaboration.

We welcome Green Decade volunteers to help us further this idea. If you want to work on this project contact Helen Rittenberg.

by Lois A. Levin, for the Bike Newton Steering Committee