City looks to encourage, legalize sport on Calgary residential streets

‘Roads and our infrastructure, they are not just for cars, they are for people’

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Changes to provincial legislation would be needed to make playing sports such as street hockey on Calgary residential roadways legal, a city council committee heard Thursday.

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As it stands, street hockey and other types of street play are prohibited under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act. Those playing on roads are considered pedestrians, who are only allowed to be on a road to cross it, according to city bureaucrats. Having equipment such as hockey nets and basketball hoops on the road also violates city bylaws.

Though playing sports such as street hockey is technically against the law, city bylaw officers have been light in taking enforcement action over the past three years. Officers have written only one ticket for sports equipment on the street over that time despite receiving more than 600 complaints, and have not issued any tickets for play on streets.

City roads director Troy McLeod told councillors the city is working with the province on amendments to the Traffic Safety Act.

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“It is a provincial legislation, so we want to make sure that whatever changes we make don’t impact other jurisdictions as well,” McLeod said.

The item came to a Thursday meeting of council’s community development committee after council directed city administration last year to look into rules that inhibit the city from encouraging street play, and to make recommendations on mitigating risk.

Scott Hill with the Play On! Canada non-profit said work by the city to encourage street play would benefit Calgary children.

“The physical, social and emotional value of street play is immeasurable. We can no longer assume that our youth will choose to gather and play outside, we have to help them,” Hill said, adding per-capita youth sports registrations are declining across Canada.

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Coun. Courtney Walcott said he supports work to allow use of city roads for other purposes, including through the city’s block party permitting program, which lets citizens apply to close streets for community events.

“Roads and our infrastructure, they are not just for cars, they are for people,” Walcott said.

Committee chair Coun. Kourtney Penner said she was “baffled” street hockey is not legal.

“I think the value of street play is spontaneity and the proximity which it holds,” Penner said. “It is very interesting that after 50-plus years of street play, not only in Calgary but most likely across the province, we are finding a way to legalize it.”

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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