No playing in the street

I 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 neighbourhood kids.

This is where we met 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.

During my policing career, I sometimes got 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, they were to move off the road until it had passed  I probably didn't have to go back and talk to them again.

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: 

  •     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 artistry, bicycling or other sports and recreational activities.

The strata vice-president said the bylaw started innocently after several close calls about 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 in a place that is not paved, but, here is no park or dedicated play area evident on the property, at least not looking at it using Google Earth.

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, Eng.

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 I can think of that uses our roads in any way they please with impunity are political protesters.

What's wrong with this picture?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/pedestrians/no-playing-street

Fight for what you want

What happened the last time you decided to deal with a road safety problem?

  • Were you successful in your quest?
  • Were your views taken "for information purposes?"
  • Did you get sucked into the whirlpool of "that's not my job?"
  • Worse still, ignored completely?

As taxpayers, we expect the appropriate level of government or the police to solve them for us. This is one of their jobs and we pay them to do that.

How would you rate their service in this regard and why do you rate it that way?

For the most part, if the situation is an emergency, it receives high priority for attention and resolution. A washed out highway or a serious collision will be dealt with immediately by the appropriate resources.

A dangerous driver or malfunctioning traffic signal may receive slightly less attention depending on the level of concern, location and resources available.

But what happens when you have a complaint about a nuisance or a potential problem?

If you are lucky, it will be responded to within a reasonable amount of time. If not, your wishes could either be ignored or even actively discouraged.

What to do?

DriveSmartBC is sometimes asked for help when this doesn't happen.

Thinking that I could provide a resource, I created a Self Help topic in the discussion forum. During the seven years that it has existed, very little has been discussed.

Perhaps an example might be useful to guide others, so I resolved to make a special effort to involve myself and document it in Self Help.

The opportunity came from Kelowna. The gentleman who contacted me lived in a gated community that was accessed from a busy road. He felt that a left-turn lane was needed to allow for safe turns into the community but the City of Kelowna felt otherwise.

I began e-mail correspondence with him to define the problem, find a suitable solution and promote it for resolution.

It quickly became apparent that the perception of the problem was the speed of vehicles on the road and the only solution that he would consider was the turn lane.

After a half dozen volleys, he decided that I wasn't on his side and that he would look elsewhere for a solution.

The other side of this coin is a community action group in the Hillside-Quadra area of Victoria. Not only do they react to problems, they actively consider pending changes to their community and provide considered feedback to city council in an effort to positively influence those changes.

This is a very good example of what a community can do, both to solve and prevent road safety problems.

Like anything else in life, you need to look at your particular road safety issue and decide whether you want to deal with it and how much time and effort you want to invest.

If the problem is not that important to you, then report and forget is probably the appropriate choice.

If you do decide to take action, there is no shortage of information to use to advantage today.

A bit of time with your favourite search engine may find an issue exactly like yours, what was done to solve it and maybe even contact information for those involved. Reach out and ask for help.

Now, persist in your quest.

  • Learn about the issue.
  • Document your observations.
  • Enlist others.
  • Contact authorities.
  • Write letters to the editor, blog, post on social media.
  • Be thoughtful and reasonable. Respect others.

It may seem like water wearing away stone, but you can make a difference if you really want to.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/government/no-one-will-solve-my-problem

Why should I behave...

... when I use the highway?

The theme last week among those I follow on Twitter seemed to be "doesn't play well with others."

Whether the subject of the Tweet was a driver, cyclist or pedestrian, the behaviour highlighted was either thoughtless or selfish. Add an over the top example that I witnessed on Saturday and I wonder why I should  behave when I use the highway?

The example that I'm speaking of involved an expensive, shiny black Mercedes sports car southbound on Highway 19 entering Nanaimo. (If you are interested, the B.C. licence number of that vehicle was FV007J.)

Not content with being at or just over the speed limit, this driver threaded the gap between me and the vehicle slightly ahead and to my right to change from the outside to the inside lane leaving about an arm's length on either side of their vehicle.

The driver was paying attention and anticipated the red light at the intersection ahead by moving completely to the right turn lane and then hooking left around the turn lane barriers back onto the highway.

Where's a traffic cop when you need one? It's at times like this that I really miss my ticket book.

As you might have guessed, I tend to follow the traffic rules and don't like it when others do not. No doubt this is partly my personality and partly a learned attitude.

If I were going to ticket drivers who didn't follow the rules, I had better set the example by following them myself. That habit has stuck with me.

I also know that blindly following the traffic rules at all times will not guarantee I will never be involved in a collision. The same applies to all other road users because despite our best efforts, humans make mistakes.

Following the rules does make us predictable though. If we know what to expect, we can co-operate to minimize the chance of crashing into each other.

It can be difficult to resist those little temptations, driving at 10 over the limit, sliding through the stop sign because we don't see other traffic close by, ignoring the solid lines because we didn't anticipate our path soon enough and more.

The trouble with giving in is that these temptations may become the default setting. Routinely cutting the corners could easily become a disastrous habit.

Thankfully, our Mercedes driver is still an exception although reports of this type of behaviour in the media is becoming more common.

Traffic rules are like the Prisoner's Dilemma. If everyone co-operates and follows the rules, then everyone "loses" the same amount, but the total loss is minimized.

The traffic moves smoothly and there are fewer collisions. However if a person defects, he gains a lot more, but there is a chance the total loss in the system is high.

You might be able to cut in line, but there is chance that you will have a crash.

However, if everyone defects, everyone loses, because there are such a high chance of crashes occurring.

I'm willing to follow the rules because I don't count doing this as a loss. I see it as being socially responsible and an acceptable cost that will ultimately produce dividends.

Do you?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/aggressive-driving/why-should-i-behave-when-i-use-highway


Collisions and road closures

Hey, you'll know the answer to this, why are the police allowed to close the highway for so long to investigate a collision? I don't think that it should ever be closed for more than about an hour.

This question and opinion were presented to me after the last collision on the Malahat Highway when it was closed for six hours to investigate a two-vehicle collision that killed one person and seriously injured two others.

Due to the nature of the highway system, there are only two detours around the crash site. One is a small ferry that cannot move significant volumes of traffic and the other involves driving a considerable distance out of the way.

To get some idea of why the road can be closed for so long, let's look at a hypothetical collision. From the moment of the crash, the clock starts ticking.

Calls are made to emergency services. These days not a lot of time is wasted here as many people have cell phones and we have relatively good cellular phone service.

It takes time to get police, fire and ambulance to the scene and as they arrive, each service organizes and begins to do their jobs.

The police have to:

  • prevent the situation from becoming worse
  • preserve the scene as much as possible
  • gather evidence, identify witnesses.

If they are first on scene, they must provide necessary aid as well. They will most likely be at the scene for the duration of the incident.

The fire department may also be called on to prevent the situation from becoming worse.

They will:

  • stabilize vehicles
  • put out fires
  • disconnect vehicle batteries
  • try to minimize any other hazards that may threaten anyone at the scene.

The tricky task of extracting victims from damaged vehicles may be tedious and delicate. It's a balance of haste to preserve life and caution to not injure people further.

Ambulance paramedics support patients from the scene to the hospital. The erroneous perception of loading people into the ambulance and immediately screaming away does not do the reality justice.

It is not uncommon for paramedics to spend time at the scene stabilizing a patient so that they will survive the trip to hospital.

If an air ambulance is required, it can take time to call and arrive. In some cases, the only place it can land is on the highway at the scene.

Beyond the initial road closure to provide a safe working area for emergency services, permission of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is required to continue a closure.

Generally, the closure service is provide by the road maintenance contractor who arranges for a flagging company to assist them.

If setting up single lane traffic is required, it can take a long time to organize and execute.

Should a death occur, the scene now comes under the jurisdiction of the coroner, who must provide authorization before the scene is disturbed. It is not uncommon for the coroner to visit the scene before giving their authorization.

The collision that prompted this question was allegedly caused by an alcohol-impaired driver. This means the police are essentially now conducting a homicide investigation because that driver was not the fatality.

Society and the court system has expectations that the police conduct a thorough investigation.

This too can take a significant amount of time depending on how complicated the scene turns out to be.

All of these minutes can add up to quite a delay when you are sitting in your vehicle waiting to continue your journey.

The ubiquitous video camera feeds news services and social media today. These videos often show emergency personnel standing around at a crash scene, appearing to be doing nothing.

Generally, this is far from the truth, as in my experience, they are most likely waiting for one step to be completed before they can carry on with their job.

The time taken does need to be balanced according to everyone's needs and the requirements of the law. What price and responsibility do we put on a death or serious injury? Your comments are welcome.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/collisions/collisions-and-road-closures

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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