Suginami Kotsu-Kōen, or Suginami Children's Traffic Park, consists of a network of roads complete with road markings, traffic lights, road signs and railway crossings where children can cycle while observing the rules of the road. That's right, all those rules and regulations that frustrate us adult cyclists are just what children are looking for to add some structure and learning to their play.
Visitors to the park are free to ride their own bicycles or borrow one of the many adults, children's and infants bicycles provided for free. In addition to bicycles the park also has a number of pedal powered go-karts including karts that allow an adult to pedal around a smaller passenger. Go-karts have a set course which they must follow and while you're limited to two laps of the circuit each time you borrow a kart, there is no limit on the number of times you can borrow one through out the day.
The smallest of riders can borrow bicycles, pedal cars, karts and other assorted ride-ons for use on a separate smaller circuit safely out of the way of other older more confident riders.
While the major intersections of the course are manned by voluntary staff who occasionally remind children of the rules, there is not an overbearing traffic-nazi presence. For the most part everyone is expected to ride on the left, and respect the traffic lights, but don't rely on an 8 year old to show much interest at stopping at a stop sign. Helmets are also not mandatory, but can be borrowed on request.
A responsible parent would take up the task of ensuring their child adhere to the rules of the road, but last Sunday most parents, fathers in particular, showed more interest in sleeping on park benches. I actually saw one father cycling behind his child while sending email on his cell phone .. so much for setting a good example.
Just outside the park is the Zenpukuji Cycling Route, a 2,400m circuit along the banks of the Zenpukuji River and through sections of Wadabori Kōen. After borrowing a bicycle from Kotsu Kōen you're also free to ride this longer route, although you're sharing it with joggers, other cyclists and the general walking public.
In addition to cycling facilities, Kotsu Kōen includes a number of playgrounds with jungle gyms, swings, slides, sandpits and even a decommissioned D-51 steam locomotive. On summer days there is ample shade provided by the trees and a large fountain does a great job of keeping the area nice and cool. The park is dotted with many picnic tables, and has toilet facilities, making it perfect for an afternoon picnic with the family.
The Suginami Children's Traffic park (杉並児童交通公園) is located 12 minutes walk north of Hamadayama Station on the Keio Inokashira line, and is open daily from 9am to 4:30pm.