Toronto Implements Tobogganing Ban on Select Hills and Installs Warning Signs

Toronto recently erected warning signs on 45 hills around the city that read: “Tobogganing is not allowed.” The warning further clarifies that “hazards such as trees, stumps, rocks, rivers or roads make this hill unsafe.” The signs also include a URL for a website where kids can find one of 27 tobogganing-approved hills. (Not even a QR code?) Ricki Gurwitz, a Toronto mom of two, is exasperated. “The fear of liability is ruining modern childhood,” she says. “I used to toboggan all the time with friends when I was a kid, and it was one of my favorite parts about winter.” Bill Steigerwald, a longtime newspaper writer and author of 30 Days a Black Man, agrees. “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,” he says. Toronto City Councilman Brad Bradford also opposes the ban. “Frankly, it’s embarrassing,” 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, but so does the city itself. Anti-tobogganing legislation makes Toronto “move in the direction of no-fun city,” says Bradford. Last year, the city put up bales of hay around the trees on the popular hill in Bradford’s district to avoid crashes. Now, tobogganing is banned on that hill. (Of course, crashing into a solid bale of hay is perhaps not so different from crashing into a tree, in this humble correspondent’s view.) Maybe it’s just that nobody wanted to bother with the bales this year, mused Philip Howard, an anti-bureaucracy crusader and author of Everyday Freedom. “Memories of a fun place have been yanked away from families in Toronto,” he says. It’s not just tobogganing. On its winter sports safety guidelines page, Toronto’s team of experts advises anyone crazy enough to even think about going sledding to always check for hazards like bumps and bare spots, as well as “ice-covered areas.” (Between bumps, bare spots, and ice-covered areas, that pretty much covers all the terrain, no?) The city also warns any not-yet-daunted tobogganers to never use a “plastic disc” to slide down a hill. Don’t bring the family dog, either, as animals “may get excited.” (Their lives should be as boring as yours!) And of course: “All children should be supervised by an adult.” So after the adults have checked for ice, bumps, trees, plastic, rivers, streets, steps, and Fido, kids are free to enjoy the winter wonderland. But by then, all of them are probably back inside, glued to their screens.