This sign has been up in our local shopping area for a while now, but it was only when I saw it today that I really questioned what it was all about.
The area is pedestrianised, and has a row of shops on one side and the river on the other. It's a natural place for people to congregate, and a lot of young people do just that. So what do we do? We stop them doing three things that they would like to do. In the past, I have seen notices like this and my thoughts have been along the lines of: it's a shared space; activities which spoil the space for the majority of people shouldn't be allowed. Now I am thinking otherwise: we stop banning things that might cause a problem, and deal with them if they become a problem.
Let them use skateboards around the shops. If they upset people, deal with that at the time. Let them play ball games. Let them cycle. If it becomes a problem, think again.
Banning these activities before a problem even arises sends out a clear message to the young - we don't really like you and we don't trust you to behave. Is there any wonder they respond by misbehaving? If young people from all walks of life share a single characteristic, it is that they all have a sense of justice and injustice, from the "it's not fair" of the toddler right up to the "I know my rights" of the gobby teenager. It's a good thing, in the sense that if people had no sense of justice and injustice the world would be a savage and uncontrollable place. We are born with this sense, but society often beats it out of people. If all you ever see are signs that people don't like you, why not live up to their expectations?
You won't see many signs like this one in any town or city in Europe. People cycle where they please, kick a ball around if they wish, and skateboard wherever the surface is suitable. Everyone seems to get along just fine.
But then the continentals seem to like and value their children, eat and drink with them, and include them in everything they do. We, it seems, can't wait to be shut of them.
Those signs just depress me.