Longueuil residents square off over creation of kid-friendly street

·3 min read
Anne Leblond says the behaviour of some of her neighbours has her worried about letting her three children play on the street. More than a dozen children live on the street.  (Radio-Canada/Charles Contant - image credit)
Anne Leblond says the behaviour of some of her neighbours has her worried about letting her three children play on the street. More than a dozen children live on the street. (Radio-Canada/Charles Contant - image credit)

A pilot project created in the hopes of making streets safer for kids in Longueuil, Que., has instead led to heightened tensions and calls to police.

The city on Montreal's South Shore has been creating kid-friendly zones since last summer, placing flower planters in the middle of some residential streets to encourage drivers to slow down and share the road, but not everyone wants to play along.

On Tuesday, when flower planters and signs asking drivers to slow down appeared on Saint-Michel Street, it wasn't long before some made it abundantly clear they don't like having the street blocked.

That afternoon François Daneau says a handful of neighbours began intimidating families making use of the space by driving erratically around them.

Radio-Canada/Charles Contant
Radio-Canada/Charles Contant

"There are dirty looks. It's a lot of passive-aggressive behaviour," Daneau said. "Opponents to the project have accused us of turning the street into a war zone."

One driver came by and then quickly accelerated down the street before later pushing one of the planters to the side with their car, he said. Another approached a group of families and honked loudly at them until the police were called, he added.

Anne Leblond, Daneau's wife, spoke at the city council meeting on Tuesday evening, after the incident.

"I'm scared for my children. I need the city to do something about this," Leblond told the council as she stood alongside another mother.

Neighbourhood tensions are high. After a CBC journalist had finished an interview with Leblond, a man driving a pickup truck approached the cameraman and gestured at a baseball bat on the seat next to him.

There are 19 homes in the kid-friendly zone. Leblond says all but four of them are in favour of the measures. But some on the street say the opposition is more widespread than that.

City councillor Jonathan Tabarah says he's ashamed to see how some people in the neighbourhood have been acting.

Radio-Canada/Charles Contant
Radio-Canada/Charles Contant

"I'm absolutely stunned, I think the reaction of certain neighbours is absolutely disproportionate," Tabarah said.

The decision was made unilaterally, but urgent action needed to be taken to ensure the safety of children on the street, he said. The city had originally told residents last year that the project wouldn't be going ahead after a survey of residents.

"I knew there was a problem and that's why we installed two little flower bins to try to protect the children in the street, so that when the cars come they need to slow down," he said.

The project will continue until at least the end of the summer, Tabarah said.

Children have long used streets like Saint-Michel to play games like street hockey, Daneau said.

"We know those opposed to the project regularly attend the council meetings, so we wanted to make sure to come to make sure our voices are heard," he said.

When the pilot project was first announced opponents had gone door to door with a petition against the project, Daneau said.

Radio-Canada/Charles Contant
Radio-Canada/Charles Contant

"We didn't consent to this," said Mario Cortavitarte, a resident on the street for the last 16 years.

He says it's a busy street and he's worried an accident will happen sooner or later.

"Why create something that will attract more children to play here?"

"If there's more aggression it's because people aren't comfortable with this injustice," he added, saying he questions whether there has actually been intimidation.

Under local bylaws drivers can be ticketed for going over the speed limit or driving erratically in kid-friendly zones.

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