Why The Places We Live Should Be Playgrounds

I don’t know where we got this idea that life as an adult is supposed to be all about work.  I think this is somebody else’s idea, not ours.  I suspect that most of us go along because we’ve been led to believe that our desire for a new car or refrigerator is more important than having fun.  That’s kind of sad if you stop and think about it.  Most people don’t.

But I’m pretty sure that those of us who bicycle do.  It’s simply more fun riding a bicycle than driving a car.  Riding a bicycle is play.  Driving a car is hard work that leads to road rage.  Motorists remind us of this all the time and because of this they want to relegate us to some out of the way parkway loop in a wetland that floods whenever it mists while they get about the serious business of “driving.”  That’s patently absurd.  I’d be inclined to laugh if I didn’t find myself in their crosshairs from time to time.

So I have a better idea.   Instead of relegating bicycles to the playground, let’s make the entire city the playground.  In the name of full disclosure, this is not really my idea.  Other people thought of it first but it’s so good that I am going to take it upon myself to spread the gospel.  People want to live, work, play, shop and visit fun places and when you build such places they become a destination instead of someplace to just pass through as quickly as possible.


Montreal’s Rue Ontario at Place Simon-Valois.  The city as playground for all rather than a place to be passed through at maximum speed.  Photo:  City of Montreal

I know all of the reasons that this is impossible (we don’t have the money, it would clog traffic,  blah, blah, blah).  It’s all a big lie. Bogotá Colombia pulled this off way back in the early 2000’s when it was one of the poorest, dirtiest cities in Latin America.  It’s a much better place today.

In fact, Enrique Peñalosa, Bogotá’s mayor at the time (he’s mayor again, proving that people like this sort of thing)  said that it is more a matter of political will.  I agree, but I think it’s even more than that.   It’s also a matter of showing people that things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been.  Things can be made better.  Who doesn’t want things made better?  People can move governments but they have to believe they can move governments before it will ever happen.

So I share this because I want it and I figure that if I want it a lot of other people probably want it to.  I also share it because we should have it.  Nobody should have to live in a community that serves primarily as a conduit for motor vehicles heading somewhere else.

We have this amazing power to bring about positive change and I think we should use it to make our communities, both big and small, better than they are today.  We should change the mindset about what a community is.  There’s no reason not to.  We have to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure anyway, so let’s rebuild it in a way that puts people front and center.  No more excuses. The places we live should be conducive to play.  Making them so will make us all better.  There never will be a better opportunity than right now.





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