Safe Park Zones are streets adjacent to parks where a municipality prioritizes traffic safety with slower speed limits and higher penalties for violation of traffic laws. Those higher penalties are then used by the municipality and the park district for education programming and infrastructure improvements to the zone. Safe Park Zones promote access to parks, both by creating a safer traffic environment and by funding infrastructure that emphasizes the presence and vulnerability of people walking and biking to the park.
Traffic safety is a major transportation barrier, especially for children and seniors. As havens for physical activity and recreation, parks are priority destinations that should be accessible to all community members.
This is a new initiative. In 2006, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to establish a Safe Park Zones statute. As of March 6, 2012 only five Illinois municipalities have adopted Safe Park Zones: Park Ridge, Lemont, Chicago Heights, Midlothian, and Braidwood.
Partnerships between local police, park authorities, public works departments, and elected officials are critical to ensuring a cohesive approach to the initiative. Variables in community government structure will require a unique process for each community. Variables can include:
· The community’s powers of home rule
· The state, county, or local jurisdiction over priority streets
· Police decisions to issue citations under the state statute or under local code
· Adjudication of moving violations in local traffic court or by Cook county’s circuit court
· Management of parks by the municipality or by an autonomous park authority