Talk about a slippery slope. Toronto recently erected “Tobogganing is not allowed” warnings on 45 hills around the city.
The reason for these bans is right there on the sign: “Hazards such as trees, stumps, rocks, rivers or roads make this hill unsafe.”
So apparently it is only safe for humans to enjoy an activity in nature if they are in an area where there is little evidence of nature, or humans.
At the bottom of the signs, there’s a URL that kids can punch into their smartphones to find one of the 27 hills in the city, population 2.9 million, where tobogganing is expressly allowed. But if kids are anything like the rest of us, once they’ve started Googling the information, who needs a toboggan? Or friends? Or legs? Goodbye, cold world! Hello, warm iPhone glow!
“The City of Toronto is just too risk-averse,” says Rob Brown, a lifelong Torontonian and dad of two who is literally a risk advisor for a financial institution. “I recall tobogganing as a child. Sometimes there were minor scrapes and bruises, but my brothers and I learned Independence.”
But now? “There are too many nanny rules aimed at making the world so safe that people, and especially kids, are not allowed to do anything outdoors but sit on a bench,” says Bill Steigerwald, a longtime newspaper writer and author of “30 Days a Black Man.”
“Frankly, it’s embarrassing,” said City Council member Brad Bradford, who opposed the ban because “It’s the same sort of misguided bureaucracy that led to an attempt to ban street hockey,” he told The Toronto Star. “This is part of the Canadian experience, growing up in winter cities, and Toronto shouldn’t be the exception to that.”
Not only do kids lose out when trees become an obstacle to outdoor fun, says Bradford, so does the city itself. Anti-tobogganing legislation makes Toronto “move in the direction of no-fun city.”
But Brad — there’s always curling!
In Bradford’s district, tobogganing is now banned on a popular hill where it was allowed last year, when the city put bales of hay around the trees to avoid crashes. (Why crashing into a solid bale of hay is so different from crashing into a tree trunk, your correspondent does not know.)
Maybe it’s just that nobody wanted to bother with the bales this year, mused Philip Howard, the anti-bureaucracy crusader and author, most recently, of “Everyday Freedom.” “Memories of a fun place have been yanked away from families in Toronto.”
Anyway, maybe the real issue is not whether kids are still allowed to slip and slide, but whether they can do so without preparing as if for “Free Solo II: This Time It’s Toronto.” On its winter sport safety guidelines page, Toronto’s lawyers — I mean, recreation experts — advise anyone crazy enough to think about sledding to always check for hazards such as bumps and bare spots, as well as “ice covered areas.” (So — no bare areas, but no icy areas either.) They also tell any not-yet-daunted tobogganers: Never use a “plastic disc” to slide down a hill. (Who would even consider that?)
Don’t bring the family dog, as animals “may get excited.” (Their lives should be as boring as yours!) And, finally, you knew it was coming: “All children should be supervised by an adult.”
So after an adult has checked for ice, no ice, bumps, trees, plastic, rivers, streets, steps and Fido — and none are present — a winter wonderland beckons.
But by then, all the kids are inside on TikTok.
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