The New Ulm Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Action Team has been awarded a grant for approximately $14,500 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s SRTS Boost funding initiative to help boost walking and bicycling to school by creating a fun, new ‘traffic playground.’

Kids On Traffic Playground
A traffic playground in Rochester, MN; photo courtesy of Olmsted Public Health

A traffic playground is a mini-street painted play space that provides children and families a fun space to practice safe walking, bicycling and scooting skills away from traffic. No real cars are allowed. A typical playground looks like a small version of a city’s streets, with travel lanes, crosswalks, stop signs, and places to visit like parks, businesses, schools and neighborhoods.

“We’re very excited that we’ll be able to create our own unique traffic playground here in New Ulm,” said Sam Gatton, New Ulm’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator. “Traffic playgrounds help young people develop confidence by navigating the streets, intersections and crossings. While learning on-street skills and about safety, they are also developing an understanding of how street interactions work.”

The permanent traffic playground will be created next to St. Paul Lutheran school, in an old parking lot on the campus of Jefferson Elementary and New Ulm Middle School. The grant funds will help New Ulm hire an experienced artist for project oversight, repair the parking lot surface and purchase supplies. In late summer, a ‘paint the pavement’ event will be held where community members will be invited to paint the traffic playground.

The traffic playground will be available for use for classroom education, summer childcare and afterschool clubs such as the middle school’s bicycle club. It will complement the bicycle fleet that New Ulm Community Education offers to schools and groups for trainings. The playground can also be enjoyed outside of school hours by families.

The Safe Routes to School Action Team is a Heart of New Ulm action team that works to make it safer for children to walk and bicycling to school by addressing the six Es – education, encouragement, equity, evaluation, engagement and engineering. For more information, visit www.heartofnewulm.com/safe-routes-to-school/.

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