The creators of a new Philly bike park want you to go play in traffic

Stephanie Rivera Fenniri stands next to a stop sign at Lil’ Philly Safety Village

Stephanie Rivera Fenniri is the former deputy director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A kid-sized piece of Denmark has landed in North Philadelphia.

It’s called the Lil’ Safety Village and it’s a colorful, mini-road network complete with four-way intersection, pedestrian crosswalks, traffic signs, and, of course, bike lanes. Installed at the intersection of Hunting Park Avenue and Cayuga Street, the tiny streetscape comes with a big ambition: to give kids and some adults a sense of what it’s like to bike in the city.

The Lil’ Philly Safety Village inside Philadelphia’s Hunting Park is a traffic park that allows kids and adults to practice road rules on bikes or as pedestrians. It features crosswalks, stop signs, and other traffic markers. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A collaboration between the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Kaboom!, a nonprofit dedicated to equity through playspaces, the William Penn Foundation, and the City of Philadelphia, the traffic park is a first for Philly, inspired by a 2016 trip to Copenhagen.

The Lil’ Philly Safety Village inside Philadelphia’s Hunting Park
The Lil’ Philly Safety Village inside Philadelphia’s Hunting Park. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

During the trip, Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart visited a “traffic playground” and decided the idea needed to be exported to Philadelphia. In 2020, the coalition won a grant to make the vision a reality. The park was designed by Studio Ludo and built by ThinkGreen, both local companies.

Stephanie Rivera Fenniri, the former deputy director of the Bicycle Coalition, said the group was intentional about where to build the $110,000-plus project.

“Hunting Park is a really rich area, it’s primarily made up of Black, Latinx, immigrant populations,” said Fenniri. “When we were looking at where we should be installing infrastructure… we wanted it to be somewhere that overlapped with the High Injury Network and also somewhere that served populations that are historically underserved by these types of facilities.”

The Lil’ Philly Safety Village inside Philadelphia’s Hunting Park
The Lil’ Philly Safety Village inside Philadelphia’s Hunting Park is a traffic park that allows kids and adults to practice road rules on bikes or as pedestrians. It features crosswalks, stop signs, and other traffic markers. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Leroy Fisher, co-founder and president of Hunting Park United, one of the local organizations involved with the project, said the park brings new learning opportunities to the area.

“This is a great start to teach the rules of the world,” he said. “I’m grateful for its location and grateful that we were chosen first to have a facility like this.”

Stuart said she hopes to bring programming to the park and teach bike riding to both kids and adults. The coalition currently runs a monthly two-hour class between April and October out of Lloyd Hall Gymnasium on Boathouse Row.

Stephanie Rivera Fenniri stands next to a stop sign at Lil’ Philly Safety Village
Stephanie Rivera Fenniri is the former deputy director of the Bicycle Coalition. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Adults, 18 and up, interested in learning how to ride a bike can do so for a $15 registration fee and an additional $14.04 to rent a bike to learn on.

“We definitely just have a huge demand for that, that we are trying to figure out how to grow,” Stuart said.

No children were present at the traffic park at 11 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday, but there were scores of cicada killer wasps buzzing in the area next to it. Experts say the wasps are pretty harmless to humans. Only the females have stingers and will use them if attacked.

“Parks & Rec has no plans to remove these creatures, but will consider [a] way to educate visitors about these insects and their role in the natural park ecosystem,” a Parks spokesperson said in an email.

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