Why Hamilton shouldn't ban tobogganing, set to music

What's winter good for? How about a tobogganing down a hill of freshly covered snow? Not in Hamilton - where toboganning is officially banned. Hamilton city councillor Sam Merulla explains why while Laura Cole sings about why she thinks it's a ridiculous idea.

Lawyer sued city in 2004 after tobogganing incident and won $900,000

The woman leading a campaign to legalize tobogganing in Hamilton, has added a new element to her campaign — a protest song.

Hamilton artist Laura Cole, 25, spotted a "No Tobogganing" sign at her local hill several years ago and now is fighting the bylaw. She started a petition that now has more than 4,000 signatures so far. Thursday she wrote and recorded a song and video that takes a bylaw-breaking slide down a local hill. You can check out You Can't Toboggan in the Hammer Anymore at the top of this page.

It's a part of who we are. There's got to be some happy medium.- Laura Cole

With recent publicity about the banwhich carries a maximum fine of $2,000 — you can see how Hamilton's reputation as a place where you can have some winter fun might be going downhill fast.

Cole's campaign, however, is against a bylaw that has never been enforced, with city officials countering that tobogganing is an acceptable activity in Hamilton.

Hamilton Councillor Sam Merulla told Piya Chattopadhyay of the CBC's The Current that the bylaw has been in place for nearly 40 years. Merulla said "there was litigation" in the 1970's that led to the bylaw being implemented. And then in 2004 Hamilton lawyer Bruno Uggenti suffered a spinal injury after hitting a draining ditch concealed by the snow. A "No Tobogganing" sign had been placed at the hill and the city also said Uggenti had broken his shoulder in a previous tobogganing accident. 

'We've been burned twice,' Coun. Merulla says

Still, Uggenti, who is in his late forties, was awarded an $900,000 settlement in 2013. 

"We've been burned twice" Merulla said. But you should know, Merulla adds, that just because you break the law it doesn't mean you'll have to pay the fine. "We've never fined anyone for tobogganing in Hamilton. We absolutely encourage it. We encourage it in a safe manner."

Merulla said the bylaw exists only to protect the city from lawsuits. He said "cities shouldn't be subjected to courts siding with moronic litigations." Listen to the full interview with The Current at the bottom of this page.

Cole, 25, also spoke with The Current and Piya Chattopadhyay. 

Cole says that tobogganing is part of our Canadian heritage and that by making tobogganing illegal, it forces parents into a tough spot — either teaching their kids to play and stay active, or obey by the law. 

"It's a part of who we are," she said. "There's got to be some happy medium. Maybe we implement a charge for people not wearing helmets like we did for bikes. It's too bad that a 40-year-old lawyer sued the city for $900,000 and won. You would think as a lawyer he would understand the bylaws in his own town."

The Current: Hamilton's tobogganing ban


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