Sorry-not-sorry, to be the ice-cold fun crusher when it comes to waving the green flag on ice cream trucks trolling Aurora streets again, but there’s long been a good reason they’re banned here, and in lots of cities.
They’re dangerous and sometimes deadly.
I gave out a real laugh earlier this week when Councilmember Dustin Zvonek announced his “eureka!” moment as a city staffer reported that rolling ice cream trucks are banned in the city.
I thought not only Zvonek but even Sentinel staffers were just feigning shock and awe at the discovery.
“When you hear it, you’re like, ‘There’s no way that’s real,’” Zvonek said of the treat truck ban, according to a story by Sentinel reporter Max Levy. “But it’s a good example of a regulation that’s put in place, and it kind of languishes on the books, and there’s been no real process to take a look at it.”
I realize now that Zvonek and many other people are genuinely flummoxed by the realization.
Why in the world would an entire city outlaw big, square, low-visibility trucks that broadcast loud, startling music to alert children who then act as if summertime Santa had just arrived outside and beckoned them to come and indulge in a fabulous sugar rush, which first requires navigating moving cars on the streets aching to get around these rolling traffic impediments surrounded by amped children completely distracted by the music, the mission, the decision, the money and then the ice-cold reward that cannot wait until the child is safely out of traffic?
Why on this capitalistic, gig-economy Earth would someone not want that rolling through their neighborhood and luring their children into the street?
And how, I ask, have we survived lo these 40 some years without all that?
Blink. Blink. Blink.
Spoiler alert: The ice-cream truck bans grew to a fever pitch back in the 1970s after multiple reports of children being injured and killed as they ran to the ice cream trucks, or ran back from the ice cream trucks, or just got run down by the ice cream trucks.
Aurora’s ban was first established in 1957 and recodified a couple times later. City spokespersons Ryan Luby and Michael Brannen dug up the first bill that made clear luring kids into streets with moving traffic was a bad idea. “Minors are of so immature an age as to be incapable of determining the danger in entering a public street, alley right of way or public way, and are incapable of avoiding other vehicular traffic in order to avoid major injury or death.”
I live in a neighborhood where these trucks have now reappeared, and I’ve flinched more than once as impatient drivers squeeeeze around a stopped ice cream truck just as some little kid, much shorter than the hood of the giant-ass SUV that can’t wait 60 seconds, ice cream shoved into their gob, obliviously starts wandering away from the truck.
Just two weeks ago, a 2-year-old boy was killed while running to get to an ice cream truck in Dallas. A Chevy Tahoe was trying to get around a stopped truck serving children when the driver hit the toddler, killing him.
It’s not an anomaly. A simple Google search turns up pages of stories of children injured or killed when the trucks roll through neighborhoods.
You don’t have to be very imaginative or even a parent to imagine how streets in Aurora, many even without sidewalks, teeming with all those aggressive, ass-hat drivers you encounter every single day driving with one hand and texting with the other and are a danger to everyone on foot or bike even without the added complication of a rolling truck attracting kids displaying all the wisdom and fervor of your sleep-deprived cousin charging into a Wal-Mart for $25 Black Friday TVs.
What shocks me more than anything is that, unexpectedly, I’m the adult in the room pointing out what I just thought was common knowledge: There’s real danger here.
Being risk averse is not what my friends and family know me for.
I had no problem as a child leaping from my parents’ roof, equipped with my own engineered set of Icarus wings. I miraculously didn’t break anything or die in that failed but exhilarating experiment.
I drive too fast. I bike way too fast. And I ski, very high, in very precarious places, way, way too fast. White-water rafting on Skull Rapids in July? Hellzyeah.
Flying to London a week after Sept. 11 because the tickets were dirt cheap? Totally.
I eat beef and pork virtually raw and never thought twice about diving deep into the fjords of Iceland with my young daughter in tow.
When Aurora finally pondered loosening restrictions on fireworks a few years ago, I was at the front of the parade.
But I’ve seen with my own eyes, as a reporter, what happens when cars and people, especially little people, collide. The car always wins. Always.
And being a dad who had no qualms about packing my house with my own kid’s pals, I’ve also seen first hand why parental guidance is not just suggested, but required with kids like the one I was.
I learned that you’re a fool to expect children to behave like adults, and ice cream trucks don’t roll down the street to lure grown-ups from their summer doldrums.
Whether Aurora should look closely at places like Connecticut, which just last year passed Tristan’s Law, providing a long list of safety requirements before telling parents, “good luck with that,” I don’t know.
But I do know it’s no big mystery or shock that places like Colorado at one time saw that the danger created to children by roving ice cream trucks outweighed the ineffable gig economy the industry provided.
And while I still regularly dismiss the risks created by very long ladders, very steep sledding stairs and very explosive fireworks, I have learned that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.