It doesn’t take much for a changed city. A red and white barrier parke is enough to block the entrance to Templiner Straße. As soon as you reach the junction, you can hear the noise of children playing and, above all, their laughter. Every Tuesday, the street in Prenzlauer Berg now belongs to the children from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Some children are stalking around with stilts, others are just sitting on the asphalt and playing with play dough, others are playing catch or painting. In between there is the colorfully painted Pankower Spielmobil. It will now be out and about in the district again until September to provide the two district play street projects with all kinds of play materials. At one point, some parents have laid a blanket on the ground and are taking advantage of the car-free zone for a picnic while their kids frolic. In the midst of the hustle and bustle there is a lonely car. A printed note under the windshield wiper: “Tuesday is play street here. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Please note the parking restrictions and park elsewhere during this time. Thank you!!!!” Maybe the owner will still learn it. As in Prenzlauer Berg, the play street era has also started in five other districts: Neukölln, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Mitte, Tempelhof-Schoeneberg and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg in particular is a pioneer – the district office has now published a list of nine temporary play and neighborhood streets. A new addition to the district is Jessnerstrasse, which is closed to traffic every Tuesday between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Everywhere, neighborhood initiatives are campaigning for the temporary closures. It is precisely this basic anchoring that is decisive for success and acceptance by the population. But almost all play streets urgently need more supporters and residents who also lend a hand on a regular basis. How much the idea has grown was shown in September 2021, when there were campaigns on play streets in all twelve Berlin districts on the Europe-wide car-free day. On a total of 35 streets, children could play, romp, jump or run safely on the streets to their heart’s content. It has been a long way since the Gudvanger Straße initiative first applied in 2015 to use Pankower Straße temporarily only for children and to lock out cars . Only after years of discussion and legal disputes was the road allowed to be closed for a few hours for the first time in 2020. Even now, the children only have the street to themselves on the first Wednesday of the month. The red-green-red Senate will continue to provide financial support for the play street initiatives in the next two years; 50,000 euros are planned annually. “The temporary play streets have proven themselves and are well received throughout Berlin,” says the answer to a parliamentary question. It was also announced that the approval process for “Temporary Play Streets” would be simplified. A Berlin-wide guide to make the procedure more transparent, simpler and more uniform should be “published before the end of 2021”. Of course, the committed people from the “Temporary Play Streets” alliance are still waiting for this. But he is “in the last loops”, says Cornelia Dittrich from the Spielstrassen-Bündnis optimistically.