In July, we had a concerned resident write in about children playing on our side streets by park areas. She expressed concern for chidren’s safety and felt that the appropriate place for play is in residential yards or playgrounds, not on the roads. This month, one of our residents has written in with another perspective – some activities such as rollerblading, cycling, etc are best played on an asphalt surface which means some play will be on our residential roads.
As for my thoughts, I am a proponent of having children play and be active in our community and that includes having them playing on our quieter streets. On a large scale thought, I feel that children playing in visible areas makes for very healthy communities. Grassroots organizations such as Paint the Pavement (paintthepavement.org), as well as police organizations have noted that visually active communities (kids playing, parents visible, community’s that display art and are involved) are known to be safer communities because they demonstrate that the community cares and the residents look out for one another, which reduces the likelihood of vandalism and crime.
On a smaller scale, I think that children playing (with supervision and education) on a road versus a contained “safe” zone promotes an entirely different skill set. Children have to learn to be aware of potential danger around them and make safe choices, they get to practice being active on a larger level due to more space and they can potentially develop community friendships by joining a larger neighbourhood group that is hard to support in our tiny backyards. All of these skills need practice to be developed – common sense is something developed due to environment, not something we are born with – and in this age of driving everywhere and finishing our day by pulling into our front garages, I think front street play is more imperative than ever.
As for the parents who take the time to put up a “Kids at Play” sign on the street as one of our families do on my street, I’d like to say thanks. I don’t take it as an admonition that I am doing something wrong as I drive onto a street. I take it as a heads-up that this is a kid-active zone and I reduce my speed even more. Back in the day, most drivers did this automatically because many of our residential streets were crawling with kids. Today, it’s so rare, we need signs to help us to slow down and look for them. It’s so rare that motorists have forgotten the joy of being a kid playing on the street and feel irritated that they have to slow down for the last 5 minutes of their drive home. Okay, that statement was a little judgmental!
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject. I could add lots more but I’ll spare you all. If you’d like to chime in, make sure to send us an email or post your thoughts on the website. Until next month, all the best to you and yours.
P.S. Just an FYI to motorists who haven’t heard – school zone times have changed across the province to 7:30am – 5:00pm. The old times started at 8:00am.