One of the projects that sparked this website and blog was the Playstreets project in Ahmedabad in India (see under 'Projects'). The concept of opening up more of the public spaces for children (and everyone else, really!) by temporarily closing streets to traffic is so simple, yet so effective.
Researching this concept a bit more, I recently came across a great initiative from England called Playing Out. They have a fun website and video clip that shows what the group is up to: http://playingout.net/ The positive energy this clip radiates really is contagious. Doesn’t watching it just make you wonder where, when and how you could put this idea into action yourself?
Similar initiatives abound in other places. In New York City, for example, Transportation Alternatives (an advocacy group for bicycling, walking, and public transit) helps neighbors to close streets for a day in order to have Playstreets (http://transalt.org/issues/pedestrian/playstreets).
In the Jackson Heights area of Queens, NYC, residents began in 2008 to organize regular car-free Sundays on 78th Street. These days were so popular that residents successfully lobbied to have the street closed down for an entire summer in 2010 – and were then later successful in getting the city’s transportation department to close the street for traffic altogether. This video ‘A Car-free Street grows in Queens’ tells the story and captures the positive energy that has been generated by the Playstreet: http://www.streetfilms.org/a-car-free-street-grows-in-queens. A new non-profit organization, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, has grown out of these efforts and is lobbying for further green public spaces in the neighborhood (http://www.jhgreen.org/).
Judging from these examples, I would say that Playstrees are an idea whose time has come! Urban spaces that are car-free allow children to play more independently and creatively, and they give all other neighbors a chance to meet and socialize, too. It really is a way of reclaiming public space for the entire neighborhood.