Spacehopper will be the only way to travel in London over Car Free Day weekend this month. A rainbow chalk racetrack is ready to be rolled out outside Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and residents of over a hundred streets across London are excitedly awaiting the chance to bounce safely and gleefully down the middle of their road thanks to London Play, the Greater London Authority, London’s councils and Transport for London.
World Car Free Day is marked annually across the globe on 22nd September, and this year is being celebrated in the capital over the weekend of Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th September. With the support of the GLA more than 100 streets across 17 London boroughs are taking part, transforming temporarily into playful social spaces for residents of all ages to have fun on their doorsteps. Having ‘jumped at the chance’ to apply to their local council to try out a play street, Londoners will experience the joyful potential of the space outside their front doors, free of traffic. Free spacehoppers and other play equipment – along with advice and information to help plan a successful event – are on offer from the charity London Play, which has been running its ‘Swap your Car for a Spacehopper’ campaign in the leadup to the event.
The fun will kick off on Friday with a colour explosion outside Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, where a chalk rainbow spacehopper track will transform the street and offer children and their families welcome respite with a few hours of outdoor play. On Saturday, Deptford High Street joins in the action with a giant hopscotch, street games, junk modelling and you guessed it, more spacehoppers! But the majority of events will take place on residential streets on Sunday, when children will be found hopping, skipping, skating and chalking on their doorsteps while adults are sipping, chatting and watching on. Lucky residents on one street in Wandsworth who have won a free on-street go kart build and race workshop in London Play’s prize draw will be getting into the nuts and bolts of emissions-free travel!
Play streets are simple, resident-organised events where neighbours on a road agree together to close their street temporarily, but regularly to through traffic. This allows children to play, drawing adults out too. On the diverse and ever-changing streets of London, play streets offer people a rare opportunity to meet their neighbours informally in the shared neutral space of the street. With most local authorities supportive, Car Free Day is an ideal opportunity to try out a play street without committing to regular events.
London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, said:
“With the realities of climate change becoming ever clearer, there has never been a better time to adopt greener, more sustainable modes of transport.
‘’Car Free Day gives us an opportunity to do just that, transforming streets into playful social spaces, where people of all ages can come together to walk, cycle, scoot, wheel, play and socialise safely, where it is not normally possible to do so.
“I’m delighted that London Play, TfL and London councils are supporting this by encouraging Londoners to join in the fun and reclaim their streets on spacehoppers. Initiatives like this support our aim to continue making the capital a greener, safer and healthier place.”
Melian Mansfield, chair of London Play said:
“Play is essential for children’s health and happiness but in London, space to play is very limited. Streets make up a massive 80 per cent of all public space in the capital. Car Free Day is a great opportunity for Londoners of all ages to experience the great untapped potential of this space – literally on their doorstep – to have fun, make connections and enjoy the sense of community that develops.”
Once participants have enjoyed the experience of seeing their street in a new light – as valuable community space rather than just parking space for cars – it is hoped that many will go on to apply for regular play street sessions. For more information contact London Play via firstname.lastname@example.org, call 0203 384 8513 or visit www.londonplaystreets.org.uk