Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Traffic Park on Seattle Center Grounds?


Driving toward Interstate-5 through the Rainier Valley or New Holly neighborhoods of Seattle, we often see a group of African immigrants, both adults and children, waiting patiently to cross the street. More often than not they smile, perhaps they hope to charm drivers to stop, but they must wonder why no cars come to a halt. Positioned only 30 feet away from a pedestrian crossing, they seem oblivious to the meaning of the white stripes on the tarmac.

Long ago, when I came to Los Angeles on a student visa, I myself showed my ignorance concerning traffic regulations in the United States. The very first time I drove a car in this country I was halted by a motor cop.
"You drove through the stop sign," he said.
"Yes?"
"You know that you're supposed to stop," he stated pulling out his ticket pad.
"Why should I stop if there was nobody coming from any of the other directions?"
"You have to stop. You have an accent, I take it you're not from here?"
"I'm from Holland."
"And in Holland you don't have to stop for a stop sign when there's no other traffic beside you?"
"No, Sir," I said, omitting that we didn't even have stop signs in the Netherlands.
Apparently he thought that was pretty funny, and a good enough reason not to give me a ticket. Pocketing his pad he said he'd let me go with a warning. "Remember, in America you stop each time you see this sign, whether there's traffic or not," he said before riding off.

Concerning the stop sign I learned quickly. But for at least two decades, I was under the impression that the word for the white stripes on the tarmac that we refer to as "zebra" in the Netherlands, was PedXing in America, and pronounced [pedzing]!
It took me twenty years to realize that PedXing was the abbreviation of Pedestrian Crossing. And that while I come from a country where children are taught "Veilig Verkeerslessen" or Safety (in) Traffic Lessons.

As a child I worried that I wouldn't be allowed to go on the school outing to the Youth Traffic Park if I didn't learn the traffic signs and rules in class. The Youth Traffic Park, the first of its kind, was founded in Assen, a small provincial town in the Netherlands in 1957. The prospect to go there was exciting, for we'd get to peddle around the miniature roads and roundabouts in small cars. In 1988 the Youth Traffic Park was moved to the outskirts of Assen and in 1992 it was renamed Verkeerspark or Traffic Park. More and more attractions have been added to make the Traffic Park a destination for the whole family.

I'd like to see a Traffic Park in Seattle. A perfect location would be at the foot of the Space Needle, in the place of the Fun Forest. It would be a wonderful venue for parties and outings and a great opportunity for the city of Seattle to commission the work of Public Artists. A playful answer to the Sculpture Park!

The Traffic Park in Assen has partnered with ANWB the Dutch equivalent of AAA, and the ANWB offers junior memberships for children, that allows them yearlong free admittance to the Traffic Park. Hey, AAA!

Have you been baffled by foreign traffic rules or are you still by those in your own country? Wouldn't it be fun to go to a Traffic Park where you'll learn the rules by (the right) example?
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