More skateboarders may be taking to downtown sidewalks because they feel safer there than on the street, where they are allowed, says Coun. Geoff Young.
In February, councillors changed a decades old bylaw that prohibited riding skateboards on downtown streets. They also removed a provision that allowed police and bylaw officers to confiscate skateboards.
Since the changes, police and bylaw enforcement have noted an increase in skateboarders on downtown sidewalks.
They also say there hasn’t been a corresponding change in skateboarding activity outside the city core.
“Maybe those skateboarders [riding on the sidewalks] are actually acting in a life-preserving way and the fact is that they won’t ever feel comfortable on the street,” Young said.
“I think we have to accept the possibility that it isn’t going to work,” he said, adding that anyone who rides a bicycle or a motorcycle quickly realizes that some motorists just don’t see them.
Skateboarders, who are not required to wear a helmet, and without a bicycle to make themselves more visible, would feel vulnerable standing on a busy downtown street waiting to make a left turn, Young noted.
Jimmy Miller, 39, president of the West Shore Skatepark Coalition, agreed that some boarders may feel uneasy boarding on city streets.
“Knowing that I have the ability to skateboard on the road is both freeing and a little bit daunting,” Miller said.
Young called the skateboard rules “a noble experiment,” but said council made a mistake in not requiring skateboarders to wear helmets.
“It would have signalled very clearly: ‘Yes you can come downtown on your skateboard, but you’ve got to wear a helmet because you’re going to be on the road, just like a bicycle,’ ” Young said.
Councillors agreed Thursday to have the city embark on a public education campaign followed by stepped-up bylaw enforcement to get skateboarders off sidewalks and onto the streets, in bike lanes where available.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday said it’s important the education campaign emphasize skateboarding is “still” not permitted on sidewalks.
Miller said it’s also important to look to the positive aspects of more education and enforcement.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to go back to the original bylaw that was there with the confiscation and the red zone,” Miller said.
“They haven’t necessarily given up on skateboarding, it just needs to be addressed along with the new cycling corridors and the increased vehicle usage in the downtown. This is just one aspect.”
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