No Playing in the Street!

no playing in the streetI grew up in a small town 50 years ago where the residential street we lived on was treated as an extension of the front yard by all the kids in the neighbourhood. Playing in the street was normal. We all met there to ride bicycles, play 500 up, street hockey, kick the can and almost everything else that we wanted to do.

The rules were simple, if a car came, you got off the street until it went by and the driver drove at a responsible speed. We shared.

Policing Complaints About Playing in the Street

During my policing career I was sometimes called on to respond to a complaint about youth doing the same thing I used to do. My preferred solution was to gather them all together and remind them that drivers were not good at sharing and they should be keeping an eye out for them.

When a vehicle approached, move off the road until it had passed and I probably would not have to come back and talk to them again.

Drivers Don't Share

Today it seems that in some residential areas, roads are only for motor vehicles. A strata property in Chemainus is considering a use of roadways bylaw amendment that reads as follows:

3(6) Any use of a roadway for any purpose other than access to and from strata lots and, where permitted, for parking is prohibited. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, a roadway may not be used for play, including hockey, baseball, basketball, skateboarding, chalk artisty, bicycling or other sports and recreational activities.

The strata vice-president said the bylaw started innocently, after several close calls with children’s safety on the street.

It's interesting to note that the proposed "solution" places the onus squarely on the children and their parents, not on the drivers in the community. No need to share here.

The older children in this community do have room to roam that is not paved, but there is no park or dedicated play area evident on the property looking at it using Google Earth.

What About Inside the City?

So, what happens when you live in the city? Playing Out is a parent and resident led movement restoring children’s freedom to play out in the streets and spaces where they live, for their health, happiness and sense of belonging. The organization is based in Bristol, England.

Control of Public Streets

Our Motor Vehicle Act regulates pedestrians using roads in our province. It sets out rules for interaction in traffic and when crossing the street. Section 182 essentially confines a pedestrian to the edges of the roadway or sidewalk when they are not crossing.

It also gives the authority to municipalities to create bylaws that provide for "the regulation or prohibition of pedestrian traffic on highways other than at crosswalks." For instance, the City of Vancouver prohibits the use of a street for "any sport, amusement, exercise or occupation on a street that obstructs, impedes, or interferes with the passage of vehicles or pedestrians," in section 67 of the Street and Traffic Bylaw.

The only group that I can think of that uses our roads in any way they please with impunity are political protesters. What's wrong with this picture?

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Where I grew up we didn't have those fancy paved streets with sidewalks. And the few vehicles that came by you knew who it was so they would probably stop and chat or tell their own kids it was time to get home for supper or bed time.

Where I currently live the kids still play on the street. Don't know if it has anything to do with small town mentality but most of us switch over a block before where they are playing to the next block so that we don't interrupt play. Have even seen our local police do the same.

We all pay taxes so doesn't it make sense to get as much use of a piece of land as you can:)

Two thoughts on this, beyond the facile. The first is, evidently based on the wording of the bylaw or perhaps the contextual paragraph, it would seem that it would also prohibit walking, which is rather unfortunate because there appears to be no sidewalks for the pedestrians. Prohibiting bicycling also seems to leave only one legal means of locomotion.

Secondly, found an interesting little Google Street View of the complex here:

Does the speed limit sign on top of the pylon constitute an enforceable speed limit? Seems like a rather ad-hoc structure to provide any sort of enforcement legitimacy. Was this sanctioned by the strata? The other sign, located at the inside corner of the signpost to the right of the roadway seems to be sufficiently obscured so as to be challenge-able should ticket be issued. Neither sign seems to confirm with the BC Manual of standard traffic signs & pavement markings guidance.

Which of course brings up the final issue ... What by-laws does the strata have in place against speeding within their jurisdiction. Is the enforcement of the speeding bylaw done with the same fervor they seem to be going after the kids. Perhaps if drivers would obey the "posted" speed limits, the children playing would be at less of a threat of being injured while at play.

Communities are supposed to be designed by people for PEOPLE, all people, including the little ones

It is certainly not something that the police could act on, but something that the strata could deal with when it involved a resident. Any action taken would depend on the bylaw.

I'm not sure what they could do with a non-resident short of denying them entry to the strata property.

Strata Councils often mean well, but they can also be mighty fond of imposing rules on other people, and trying to control how those other people should behave. Some years ago, I got nominated as Strata Chairman or whatever they called it, and was appalled to see how often the Strata was called on to pass bylaws that really weren't necessary amongst neighbours. Didn't go far with me, that.

In the Chemainus complex pictured, not only are there no sidewalks (or other safe areas for pedestrians to be separated from cars), they haven't even installed speed bumps. And that silly little sign stuck in a cone is not how to control traffic speed in the area.

In a Manitoba town of 8000 we played road hockey during the winter. Somebody would shout, "car!" then we'd moved the nets off the road. This was the mid 1970s. The drivers were parents or neighbours. The street was lined on both sides with single family homes. I live in Cumberland, BC and enjoy that same kind of community lifestyle.

I kind of know the area. If the street is within the strata, I would say fine, must obey the strata bylaw.

But, if this street is owned and serviced by the regional district, I would say the strata bylaw is not worth the paper its written on. It would be up to the regional district to set the bylaws in that case. The area appears to be owned by the Chemainus Gardens which would indicate private land.

Only my opinion.

When I was a kid growing up in Nelson BC, we use to play hockey with a tennis ball on the street and sleigh ride down this long hill (Hall Mines Rd) at night in the winter, that way we could see car lights approaching before a bend in the road. Was lots of fun then.

I’ve had some bitter twitter discourse lately with cycling advocates who’d like nothing better to see the end of the motor vehicle. Naturally I’ve taken the position that since most road users drive, it makes no sense to inconvenience the masses to satisfy the wants of a few. However, missing from all of these arguments, particularly on twitter where it seems people choose outrageous sides and hyperbole to go with them, is some common sense and middle ground. Of course kids should be able to use neighborhood streets and everyone should just chill out and use some common sense. We really seem to becoming a mean bunch of people. Who would want to buy a place with a strata like that?

The Vancouver By-Law you quoted, Section 67 of the Street and Traffic By Law 2849, does restrict the use of roadway.

That same By Law under section 14, restricts pedestrians from crossing in a crosswalk unless they are on the "right half of the crosswalk".  Haven't heard of too many paying tickets for walking on the left side of a crosswalk.

I didn't grow up in a small town.  In fact I grew up in the City of Vancouver.  Unfortunately 1/4 block from my home was a retirement complex, a very large one.

The closest actual park was 6 block away, and to get there children would have to cross Kingsway.  Even back then a fairly busy main street in Vancouver.

Killing time that hour before dinner, or a hour or two after, we kids (average age 10 +/-) would play street hockey.  Our residential street wasn't busy, perhaps 3 or 4 cars an hour.  But those "good old" pensioners were forever diligent in keeping an eye open for crime and reporting same to the police.

I lost count, the number of times the VPD would arrive in answer to the reports of the pensioners.

The odd cop (and I'd use "odd" both ways) would take our indiscretions in flagrantly breaking the law, quite seriously, but most, those with common sense, would explain that they had a complaint and likely the complainant was watching, "so nod your head, like you are agreeing",,, "everyone get back on the sidewalk, and give me a few minutes to get out of the area, and have fun,,, who's winning ?"

Those interactions helped me learn a valuable lesson, a respect for police and resolve to not be a grumpy old man when the time came.  I haven't forgotten either.

Ironically I don't recall any of the motorists ever being upset with us, just the old people sitting at their windows.  Sad, really.

I spent 28 years in the RCMP and we picked our neighbourhoods to purchase our house based on how many kids were playing street hockey in the street. This buying strategy never let us down. More onus has to be placed on drivers to stay off their cells and watch for kids on the street.

Just got finished watching a TV program on streets and it ties in with this weeks topic.

The culprit in this situation is an item referred to as the horseless carriage. Prior to the automobile streets were considered community property. In the inner city streets were where kids played. With the car came faster speeds and people were isolated from those that were walking. In a very short period of time drives decided that roads and streets were built only for their use.

I wonder if there has ever been any research done on crime rates in communities where kids play on the street to where they are not allowed to? Where kids play on the streets there is greater community spirit. Anonymous posted how they would buy in neighbourhoods where kids played street hockey which supports that community spirit equals lower crime rates.


Many years ago, while working in the communications center, I got a call from this lady on Sunday morning complaining about kids playing hockey on the street. I asked her if they were damaging or destroying properly and she said no. But, they are loud.

Well, reluctantly I dispatched this young member to the call. Later, he tells me his version of the story.

He immediately attended. When he got close he saw the kids. He turned around, went home and got his own hockey stick. He drove back to the kids' location. He parked the PC sideways to block traffic, got his hat, jacket and belt off into the trunk of the car. He then joined the kids. The kids went wild and everyone had a good time.

Well, not everybody. Sitting in an office, I had no idea what was going on. So, I get this very irate lady calling me back This is the initial lady who called in the complaint and she is beside herself as to why this grown up Mountie is playing hockey with those rowdy kids. I told her I would get back to her as soon as I get hold of the member.

Remember, there were no cell phone in those days and the member is playing hockey without a portable.

About an hour later the member tells me he is 10-8. He now has to go home for a shower after a long workout (street hockey) I reminded him that we did have a complaint on this and although I admired his approach, he should call this lady back as I did not want to deal with her. After all, he makes more money than me and he had all the fun.

As I mentioned before, this happened on a Sunday morning. She (complainant) later in the week called both the mayor and the detachment commander to complain about this member's response to the complaint.

As you can imagine, nothing came out of her complaint.