Works committee decides to keep ban
Playing ball games on city streets remains illegal
(Written for Town Crier April 26.)
Teen Andrew Polanyi just wants to play street hockey with his friends without risking being hassled by the man.
“There’s a sign right in front of my house saying, ‘ball hockey prohibited’ and ever since that sign has been up neighbours have been coming up to us,” 13 year old Polanyi told the media during a Public Works committee hearing on Tuesday. “Some of them have been taking our pictures and sending them to the police and threatening to call the police.”
Currently, anyone found playing road hockey on Toronto streets could face a $55 fine. But in reality no one is charged or fined, said Ron Hamilton, manager of city traffic operations in Toronto and East York.
“I’ve been with the city for 40 years and I can’t recall anyone in Toronto being charged or fined by police,” said Hamilton. Polanyi and three of his friends were at the committee meeting to present a 125 signature petition asking the city to rescind the ban on road hockey. However, it is unlikely that kids will be legally facing off on Toronto streets anytime soon.
Hamilton had prepared a report on the issue which recommended either keeping things the way they are or overturning the bylaw, but the committee chose to take no action.
Committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong wanted to permit the teens to come back in May to speak to the committee, but his fellow councillors rejected that option. Minnan-Wong said he’s happy to meet with the teens to hear their concerns.
Not surprisingly, the teens weren’t happy with the outcome.
“Hockey is our sport,” Polanyi told the media. “We are Canadian. We should be able to play our sport.
“Newmarket has a bylaw that you can play ball hockey on streets. It’s even more important in Toronto because we have less backyards and less yard space and parents can’t always go to the park with you.”
The major concerns around changing the bylaw have to do with the safety of the participants and the impact impromptu games could have on traffic flow.
“There’s a way to deal with that now,” said Councillor Josh Matlow. “Kids scream ‘car’ when there’s a car and ‘game on’ when the car is gone. Kids have done that for a generation.”
Further complicating the matter is that the existing bylaw applies to all roadways: local streets, collector roads, minor and major arterials and expressways. Some have suggested making changing the bylaw to exempt local streets, but Hamilton said it isn’t that easy.
“A local road in the city could see 3,000 cars a day and a suburban local road may see only 200 cars a day. So you have exempted both of these local streets,” said Hamilton.
The bylaw’s existence surprised Laurie Smith whose son Xander Anderson plays ball on their street near Woodbine and Danforth avenues.
“It never occurred to me that one wouldn’t be allowed to play,” Smith said.
“I would like to see it rescinded on certain streets. It can’t be on a really busy arterial road where the speed limit is 60 but on our street the speed limit is 40,” Smith said.
She may get her wish sometime in the future. While the issue is dead for now, councillor Matlow plans to bring a motion to city council possibly as early as May.
“I will move a motion at council that is a reasonable response to staff concerns to develop a way for parents living on slow moving side streets to accept responsibility for their kids playing street hockey,” Matlow told theTown Crier.