Parents - Park your cars in your garage!

Yesterday (Saturday, September 26, 2015) I almost hit a child playing in the street!  Luckily I was driving slowly but it could have easily ended in disaster – for him, for his family and for me.  I had only a split second to react as he came out from behind a parked SUV.  He was not alone; two or three other boys were weaving in and out of the cars from the sidewalk to the road, on bikes and scooters.

I am all for sharing residential road with kids.  Some of my best childhood memories are of playing street hockey for hours on the road in front of our house.  However, if I recall correctly, our streets were pretty much free of parked cars. At best you could only park on one side of the street (Hamilton bylaws were such parked cars could only be on one side for the first 15 days and the other side of the last half of the month). Another factor in our car free streets of the ‘60s was that most families only had one car and they parked it in the driveway, carport or garage.

Today it is a different story. Most of Calgary’s inner city streets are lined with large SUVs and trucks on both sides of the road making it difficult if not impossible for drivers and kids to see one another. I think this is a huge safety hazard – and one largely preventable. I don’t understand why parents, so concerned about their children’s safety, create such a safety hazard. All of these homes have garages or a parking pad off the back lane - why don’t they use them? There is no need for them to use the street!

Boys playing along the sidewalk on a street lined with cars, trucks and SUVs, that make it hard for the boys to see the cars and drivers to see the boys. 

Boys hidden by SUV with a cargo carrier on top which makes it even higher and therefore harder to see the kids. 

Boys weaving in and out of the cars on the open road. Note that where there are no parks cars it is far easier for drivers to see children playing on the sidewalk and for children to see the cars. 

A typical tree-lined, oops I mean car-lined street at 8:30 in the morning. 

Get the parked cars off the street!

An effective way to increase street safety would be if everyone stopped parking on the street, unless it is for short stays.  This would ensure the kids and drivers have better sightlines to see each other. Perhaps we should remove all of the “permit-only” parking on inner city residential streets, which just encourages residents to use the street instead of their garage to park their car. 

Residential streets with just a few parked cars are much safer for everyone!

Just saying!

Some people are advocating reducing the speed limit on Calgary's residential streets to 30km from 50 km.  While this may help, I expect it not only won’t slow down those who like to speed, but will be difficult to enforce and penalizes those who already drive safely.  Instead lets discourage street parking as much as possible on residential streets.

It is only common sense that parents who have the most to gain from making the street in front of their house safe for their kids to play would lead by example, by parking in their garage.  Neighbours without kids should voluntarily use their garage in the spirit of being a good neighbour. 

Common on folks, clean out the garage! And start using it for what it is meant for – parking your cars.

We need to learn to share the street in residential neighbourhoods.  Everyone has to assume some responsibility for making it safe. 

Reader Feedback:

NL writes: We seem to have become much more car-centric since the 60’s or maybe it’s just in Alberta, but most people with a garage still need space to park their 2nd and 3rd vehicles. Even on a street like ours, where cars are usually only parked on one side, many drivers are at the 50km/h speed limit or beyond which makes it dangerous for any pedestrians to be on the street, regardless of their age. For kids, sidewalks have replaced the streets for most activities and when ball hockey is the planned activity, cul-de-sacs are best and aren’t too difficult to find in any of the neighbourhoods built in the last 40 years.