Code of Conduct
The purpose of this code of conduct is to ensure the safety of participants in street activities and peaceful coexistence among all users of the roadway. It includes the following provisions:
• Observe the period during which safe free play is allowed, i.e. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
• Participants to exercise vigilance or provide parental supervision, as applicable.
• Participants to show courtesy and share the roadway with cars.
• Clear the roadway after the game.
• Avoid playing in areas with curves and intersections.
• Be respectful of neighbours’ reasonable expectation of quiet.
Criteria for Allowing Free Play on a Street
Several conditions apply when designating a street for play. The application must come from a resident, but the city can take the initiative. Only local streets can be designated, which excludes collector lanes and major thoroughfares. The street must be straight and provide good visual clearance to motorists. Commercial areas with high traffic are excluded. There must be street lights to ensure evening visibility.
Designation of a play street involves an administrative process that may seem cumbersome but has proved effective and responsive to residents’ wishes.
A resident must apply to the Citizens’ Office to have their street designated. After acknowledging receipt of the application, the office then forwards a request to the Public Works Department. The department then conducts a preliminary analysis and sends the file to the Traffic Committee, which makes a recommendation to Council.
If the City approves the request, a consultation process begins:
• The Communications Department sends a notice to residents stating that they have 15 days to submit written comments to the Citizens’ Office.
• Comments are sent to the local alderperson.
• Following the consultation, the alderperson meets with residents who have expressed views and subsequently presents the results of this process to Council.
The proposal must get two-thirds approval from riverside residents for the City to approve it. A lack of response is considered a positive response.
Council then approves a motion to allow the designation. Once the decision is made, the Public Works Department is required to install proper signage. Residents receive a congratulatory kit explaining the code of conduct and indicating the section of the street where play is allowed. Once the work is completed, the Communications Department advertises the news on the City’s website and to media.
If the proposal is rejected, the Communications Department forwards the decision to residents of the street and the Public Works Department closes the file.
In summer, the whole process usually takes about a month.
Whenever a street is designated, residents receive a kit that contains the following:
• A thank you letter informing them of the outcome and next steps
• A certificate of recognition
• The code of conduct
• A small treat for children and adults (temporary tattoo with the image of the project).
Free Play in 24 Streets
Six months after launching the project, the City had allowed free play on 24 streets. Twenty-seven applications had been processed, and five were still pending. The response was largely positive, representing nearly 800 families.
Belœil has established itself as a leader in the promotion of physical activity with the development of the cycling network, increased accessibility to parks, a program (Boîte-O-Sports) providing free sports equipment, etc. Belœil Mayor Diane Lavoie made a point of highlighting this fact at the launch of the pilot project. “Our proposal for free play in residential streets is part of our vision for an active city,” she said.
Belœil has also been a “child-friendly municipality” since 2014.
Awards and Bandwagon Effect
The pilot project has earned major awards for the City of Belœil in 2016.
On June 2nd, in Granby, an award from the Carrefour Action municipale et famille (CAMF) celebrated this municipal project for improving the quality of life for families and seniors. CAMF noted that “the City of Beloeil had inspired other municipalities to consider similar projects to enable young people to play freely in targeted residential streets. The regulatory process governing the practice of free play, while it is much more complex than it seems, comprises several steps that other Quebec municipalities can now emulate.”
On October 7th, in Rivière-du-Loup, the project received the Award of Merit from the Association québécoise du loisir municipal (AQLM) in the category of municipalities or districts with a population of 10,000 to 50,000. The day before, city officials had presented a workshop on the project as part of the 17th Annual Conference on Municipal Leisure. Some 80 participants from all corners of the province showed great interest in the initiative.
On November 24th, in Montreal, Belœil received the Friendly and Supportive Municipality Award at the International Francophone Conference of Healthy Towns and Villages and Healthy Cities of the World Health Organization. At this event, Belœil was also honoured with the 2016 Health and Family Challenge Award by Capsana, a social organization that promotes physical and mental health.
In late November, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), an opposition party, announced that it would table a bill in the National Assembly to allow free play in the streets of all the municipalities in the province.
Belœil still receives many requests for information on the pilot project. The City has developed a toolkit exclusively for municipalities and interested organizations. The kit has been sent to a dozen agencies and about twenty cities, districts or regional county municipalities, including Québec and Montreal.
Pending provincial legislation, municipalities can amend their by-laws to end police action against children who only want to move, so that they can rediscover the benefits of the roadway as a place where to get exercise.