If you have children you will be familiar with hours over many years spent at a playground. Living close to a good playground where both children and busy parents can relax is greatly valued. If you are out on the bike, why not ride there. For small kids, this will be the local playground, however, if they are older there may be a “play space” close by.
The “play space” concept seems to be quite new in the ACT. It is a playground but unlike a traditional playground not only for small kids. The “play space” offers activities for all ages from young children to adults. It is an outdoor recreational area, packed into a small space. Larger ones will include an area the size of a basketball court for ball sports. Some include a circular grassed area big enough for cricket or frisbee with tables and BBQ facilities on one side. There may be toilets – but strangely not always – and this would be best corrected.
As a cyclist, we would like a bike path through the suburb to the playground, perhaps something recreational around a lake. Certainly, I do not want to have to cross any roads with kids. I may stop when I see a car but my young kids won’t. If I do have to cross a road, it would be nice to have a pedestrian crossing. The raised stripped version in the ACT “zebra crossing” should be standard in all new estate development. Having arrived at the playground, we need somewhere to park the bikes.
The ACT Government has recognised the need for learn-to-ride facilities for small children. These are small, marked track networks with street signage and simulated crossing (but no traffic lights). Once the kids have mastered turning, they can ride in circles and are their own hazard, while the parents chat on conveniently placed seating at the edge of the facility. These are not part of the play space concept but perhaps should be.
Mountain biking is a difficult skill and takes time to master like ball sports. Children can be taught the skills. Mountain bike clubs are increasingly recognising that they need facilities for all skill levels, not just singletrack for world champions. Increasingly, there have been efforts made to build tracks for children. One at Stromlo Forest Park is even called The Playground. There are different types. A children’s BMX track is not uncommon. Singletrack is popular with mountain bikes. The children’s area will have a selection of paths and obstacles, nothing too steep or too high where you would hurt yourself when you fall.
Primary schools are lucky enough to have quite large grounds and within these grounds, some have dirt bike tracks. Schools would like children to be active. Sport is taught as part of the curriculum for kids of all ages. Riding a bike is a life long activity that improves health and wellbeing. How exciting that schools allow children to ride their bikes within the grounds. A welcome addition to any school.