Downtown Rutland becomes giant playground

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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) Downtown Rutland is back to regular business after turning into a giant playground Saturday afternoon.

"Come Alive Outside Vermont" rolled out green grass on Center Street to make room for a pop-up park. It was part of the national Green Street Challenge. Hundreds of kids and their parents stopped by to play, socialize and learn. It featured free yoga and Zumba, bike repair demonstrations and a picnic.

One of the most popular features was the traffic garden. Bicycle advocacy group Local Motion designed it with the goal of teaching children the rules of the road. They learned how to stop for pedestrians, how to interact at a traffic light and when to yield.

Allegra Williams of Local Motion told WCAX News the traffic garden exposes children to the different roles people play on the road, such as driver, bicyclist and pedestrian. Through interacting with the traffic garden, they're able to put themselves in the shoes of each person and learn how to properly and safely behave in that position.

Representatives from the Vermont Energy Education Program were also helping out at the traffic garden. Laura MacLachlan talked with WCAX about the goals they have for pop-up projects in the future.

"From the perspective of the Vermont Energy Education Program, we want to collaborate with students who would design it, help build it and it would become part of the physical education program at a school," she said. "Long term, what we’d like to do is have one of these in the elementary schools and the preschools so that we can teach road safety because as a pedestrian, as a bicyclist and as a driver. We need to know the rules of the road on both sides."

MacLachlan also said traffic pop-ups are more popular in Europe but they're starting to be implemented around the U.S. She said these installations are beneficial to reducing traffic deaths.

"This is the solution. We are sadly having traffic fatalities. So with this type of project, we can get back to no fatalities. Education is really the answer," she said.

The event was a collaboration among Local Motion, the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, Rutland Regional Medical Center, The Gymnasium LLC, Vermont Sport & Fitness, Wonderfeet Kids' Museum, Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center, Fitness Made Fun and Vermont Energy Education Program.