(via Councillor Shad Qadri)
In a motion for Council consideration at its meeting of May 23, 2007, Councillor Doucet recommended that ball hockey on residential streets be permissible, as long as the free flow of traffic is maintained, and that staff consult with the public concerning what other child-friendly, community-friendly activities could be considered as acceptable public uses of city sidewalks and streets.
As outlined in a response prepared by By-law Services and Legal Services in 2002, activity on streets is regulated by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, which is enforced locally by the Ottawa Police. Municipalities may only pass by-laws, consistent with the provincial regulation, which allows cities to develop by-laws that are enforced by City By-law Officers in accordance with guidelines that reflect community standards while ensuring the health and safety of pedestrians and facilitating the flow of traffic.
The Highway Traffic Act provides a mandatory duty on pedestrians to use the extreme left hand side of a highway when walking on it and provides rules for pedestrians walking across it. It was the opinion of the City Solicitor that there is no latitude available in the Highway Traffic Act to consider a more permissive option regarding the use of streets for sporting activities.
Accordingly, the Traffic and Parking by-law, enforced by City of Ottawa By-law Enforcement Officers, presently contains a provision (section 93 of By-law 2003-530), which “prohibits a person from playing or taking part in any game or sport upon a roadway.”
As road authority, the City must ensure that all permitted activities on the roadway are conducted in a reasonably safe manner and the Traffic and Parking By-law has been enacted to ensure a reasonable degree of safety at all times.
It is also important to note that, in addition to ensuring consistency with the Highway Traffic Act and implementing its duty as road authority, this provision serves to protect the City from liability should a player be injured while taking part in a game or sport on the street or should damage occur to adjacent properties.
Current Enforcement Standard
By-law and Regulatory Services presently enforces the provisions regarding the use of streets for games or sports on a complaint basis, as they do many other by-law requirements. No proactive steps are taken to seek out potential contraventions of these provisions.
The City Solicitor advises that there is no specific duty on the municipality to prosecute every alleged contravention of a by-law, but the municipality should apply a consistent approach to any complaint received regarding such use of streets. That approach may involve an element of education with regard to the by-law requirements and traffic safety, as well as the responsibility of parents for the actions of their children.”
The City’s general enforcement approach is based on voluntary compliance through education concerning the risks and consequences of playing in an unprotected environment. This approach has been applied in the City using the same method as that applied prior to amalgamation. Records indicate that the By-law and Regulatory Services Branch responded to approximately 150 requests for service concerning playing on roadways in the past year. The majority of those requests were resolved through Step 3 (education) of the enforcement approach/procedure, and no charges were necessary.
Based on the foregoing, the Department recommends that Section 93 of the Traffic and Parking By-law remain as currently drafted and that the City continue with the present enforcement approach, which is one of education, notification, mediation and warnings, as appropriate. This approach has been successful in the past and it is anticipated that it will continue to be effective in the future, with the cooperation of residents and the general understanding that playing on roadways can be dangerous and regulations should be in place to deal with those instances where public safety is put at risk.