Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 4, 2021

A space to be

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

I ran across this article on CityLab and it reminded me of a conversation I had with #1 daughter when we walking past the new playground at Alameda Point. She remarked that the new park was “boring” because it was just for little kids, but that she and her bestie did spend some time there the other evening swinging on the big disc swing and just talked.

When we think about public spaces, particularly public parks, we do design without this teenage girl demographic in mind. From City Lab:

[R]esearch by Swedish firm White Arkitekter, which shows that boys over the age of 8 use parks four times as much as girls. Another 2020 survey, by the Girl Guides, Britain’s equivalent of the Girl Scouts, notes that more than 40% of girls ages 11 to 21 said they feel unsafe outdoors. Surveys of skate parks — a play infrastructure cities often add explicitly to serve teens — show the vast majority of users are male. 

That said, Make Space for Girls recognizes that it is not only girls who would benefit from a wider diversity of public space offerings for teenagers. “The reality is much more complicated,” Clark says. “There is one type of masculinity that skate parks and pump tracks cater to, but they are missing a whole other type of boy and a whole lot of girls.”

Rebecca Rubin, an architect at White Arkitekter, has been working on girl-centric public projects for the past six years. “The basic principle is that you have to know the actual place. Put effort and money into spaces they already use rather than trying to move them to another part of the city,” she says. After that, consider the cost of hanging out — where can girls sit for a long time and spend little money? Often the answer, even in Sweden, is McDonalds: inexpensive, anonymous, sheltered from the elements, like the suburban malls that are more often portrayed as teen spaces.

And before someone says there are plenty of swing sets around Alameda:

[T]here aren’t enough swings made for teenage girls. “They are almost always placed with the equipment for younger children, so that if teenagers use them they are seen as invaders.”

There also aren’t enough spaces for teen girls. Where aren’t teenagers seen as invaders? They are too big, too loud, too old for playgrounds, at least in the eyes of parents; and too young, too loud, too broke for restaurants, bars and stores. The problem is magnified for teen girls who, surveys show, are less likely to use the basketball courts and skate parks intended for adolescents, and run the risk of harassment, or worse, when they appear in adult spaces.

Hopefully this is something that the Rec and Park Department think about, maybe even form an ad hoc committee that probably won’t get any pushback from Trish Spencer and friends unless you put a bunch of non traditional community members on the committee. We should be looking at ways at incorporating the needs of all people in our parks not just the toddler set or the sporty folks.

1 Comment »

  1. Excellent points, Lauren. It’s clear this need should be addressed. Thanks for bringing this to light.

    Comment by egelblock — June 4, 2021 @ 6:34 am

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