Gatineau pilot project
----Playing in the streets permitted in some areas
In an effort to promote active living in secure environments, Gatineau’s municipal council has adopted a pilot project dedicating 50 of its streets and four neighbourhood blocks as free play areas. Council made the decision during a special meeting held on June 30, noting that the one-year pilot project comes into effect on July 7.
In Aylmer, 11 streets and two neighbourhood blocks – rue Lionel-Renaud and rue Arthur-Quesnel – were selected for the project, which can be seen on the city’s website. Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin noted that Gatineau is the first large city in the province to allow free play on certain streets. He explained that the Code de la Sécurité routière forbids free play in the street everywhere in Quebec. But since the adoption of Loi 122 in 2017, cities are able to authorize free play in the street under certain conditions. Signs will be installed to identify the streets where free play is permitted.
Free play won’t be authorized in times of severe inclement weather, during city work, at less than three metres of a vehicle and fewer than 30 metres from an intersection. The Limbour district councillor who worked on the file, Renée Amyot, said the project was favourably received when Gatineau ville en santé initially presented it last winter, noting that 425 residents requested that their street be included in the pilot project.
Judging by its impact on Beloeil, Quebec, the province’s first municipality to launch the project, Amyot said the initiative would be very positive for the community. She added that the 50 streets were selected according to very strict criteria, taking into account the geography of streets, speed limits and bus routes, among other things. “The criteria were numerous in order to ensure the safety of kids and teenagers who will occupy the street,” Amyot said. She said that requested streets that met the criteria were selected on a first-come first-served basis. To equitably divide the streets in proportion to the population rate of each sector, the city ensured that there would be a free play street in almost every district. “We almost made it,” Amyot said.
While it involves free play in the street, the project comes with a code of ethics, which states that free play is only authorized on streets officially designated for it. It added that free play is only authorized between 9 am and 30 minutes before sundown, noting that sunset times are available on the National Research Council of Canada’s website.
Free play participants must be courteous with surrounding vehicles and participants and their parents are accountable for themselves and their kids playing in the street. In the spring of 2021, there will be a review of the project that will include a public interest evaluation, a satisfaction survey for residents from the selected streets and a data compilation relating to safety and social accep