Thursday, 03 January 2008

Investing in playgrounds, investing in streets I came across these two metal ghosts, looming from the echoes of playing children, defying the overgrowth. Then I trotted home and continued reading Tim Gill's No fear. He recalls the execrable 1980s tv programme That's Life, which ran an over-excited campaign for safety surfacing on children's playgrounds. One consequence was that the costs for authorities to provide facilities rose steeply: combined with the fear of litigation, this gave rise to a reduction in funding for other measures, and then a reduction in the provision of play areas. The rubber surfacing most commonly used costs up to 40 per cent of the total capital cost of a playground. This means that, over the decade or so following the That's Life playground safety campaign, perhaps £200 to £300 million has been spent on a measure that, on the most optimistic assumptions, would have saved the lives of one or two children. The same period saw perhaps 1,300 child pedestrians killed and around 40,000 seriously injured, most on streets close to their homes. Cost-benefit analyses show that residential traffic calming is at least ten times as effective in reducing accident numbers as playground safety resurfacing... The same sum would beyond doubt have saved far more lives if it had been invested in streets rather than playgrounds. Simply providing more playgrounds may have saved more lives, since it would have reduced children's travel distances and hence the likelihood of being run over.

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