On your mark, get set, play!
Gatineau runs pilot project permitting street play
Who hasn’t seen a group of kids playing hockey in the street, moving their net as a car passes by, and picking up the game once it’s gone? A typical scene in the Quebec urban landscape, especially during the summer months. Yet, even though it is widely tolerated by cities and police services, street play is prohibited everywhere in Quebec under the Highway Safety Code, which prohibits the obstruction of the roadway. This situation is set to change, however, with the adoption by the National Assembly of Bill 122, whose main purpose is to increase the autonomy and powers of municipalities, recognizing them as local governments. According to article 78 of that bill, “a municipality may, by regulation, permit free play on a public road that it is responsible for managing”. It also specifies that “the municipality may determine, among the provisions of the by-law, those whose violation constitutes an offence and fix the applicable fines, which may not exceed the amount of $120”.
In this context, during a press scrum on January 28, Renée Amyot, Limbour District Councillor and President of the Gatineau Commission, Ville en santé, announced the implementation of a one-year pilot project to allow the practice of free play in the street in a safe manner. As part of the pilot project, free play would be allowed on certain local streets (maximum of 50) that meet various selection criteria. These would include local streets with a speed limit of 40 km/h, no public transit routes, and not located in front of a park or business, or in a school zone. As Ms Amyot explained, “You can’t allow play everywhere. If there is to be good social acceptability, a code of conduct must be built into our regulations regarding child behaviour, hours of play allowed, responsibilities on both sides, etc.” Ms Amyot added that “the level of police tolerance for free play will be reduced in areas where it is not permitted. This pilot project, which is scheduled to come into effect in June 2020, is based on an initiative launched by the City of Beloeil in 2016, entitled “Dans ma rue, on joue! ».
In the winter of 2018, the City conducted an online consultation on the possibility of a pilot project on free street play. The purpose of this consultation was to gather the public’s suggestions and concerns about street gambling. More than 1,761 people responded to the online questionnaire. The main concerns raised were safety, social acceptability and the investment required. According to 88% of respondents, some residential streets in Gatineau are suitable for the practice of free play. Gatineau residents will be able to submit an application for their local street starting at the end of February. Streets will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to allowing children to play freely, safely and legally on residential streets, the City of Gatineau seeks to maximize opportunities for citizens, especially young people, to get moving, which is important in this digital age, where children tend to stay indoors on their devices rather than go outside to play.
The project will be submitted to the Council for approval on February 18. (Trans.: BA)