Canada Safety Council warns Sackville not to allow skateboards on town streets

Councillor Andrew Black introduced bylaw change to allow skateboards on streets

A spokesman for the Canada Safety Council is urging Sackville not to allow skateboarders to travel on town streets.

“From a safety perspective, this makes no sense,” Lewis Smith, the Council’s manager of national projects said in a telephone interview.

“Skateboarders should not be interacting with road traffic in any way. It’s a basic issue of safety,” he says.

At its meeting on Monday, town council gave first reading (preliminary approval) to a change in the traffic bylaw that would allow skateboarders on streets as long as they wear safety helmets and stay off sidewalks.

The change was proposed by Councillor Andrew Black, who serves on council’s policy and bylaw committee.

“Skateboarding is a risk,” Black acknowledged later during a telephone interview. “When you go out to skate you have to be careful, just as you would if you were biking or scootering,” he added.

“There’s definitely a risk for people to skateboard, but I think to not allow them because they could get injured, I think they should make that choice themselves.”

Safety concerns

Black was responding to questions raised by the Safety Council, a national, non-profit organization that tells skateboarders to stay away from roads and traffic.

“If you don’t put yourselves in those situations where you are at risk, then you’re diminishing the odds of something happening,” Lewis Smith of the Safety Council says.

“By town council modifying the bylaws to allow skateboards on the roads, it implies to skateboarders that it’s a safe activity.”

Smith argues that bylaws ban skateboarders from using sidewalks because their speed could endanger slower-moving pedestrians.

He says the same reasoning should apply in reverse to roadways, where cars and trucks are travelling much faster than skateboards, putting skateboarders at risk.

“I think it stands to reason that a helmet alone is not enough to protect someone against a heavy vehicle coming at them at 60 km/h.”

Skateboarding generally safe

But Councillor Black says skateboarding is no more unsafe than biking on streets.

“I guess there’s a worry that it would be unsafe, but I think skateboarding in general is not unsafe,” he adds.

“I think there are times where people might make possibly the wrong move or the wrong decision and get injured, but the same  thing could be said for biking,” he says.

However, the Safety Council’s Lewis Smith says the recognition that cyclists are vulnerable has gradually led to measures such as dedicated bike lanes to separate them from traffic.

In 2017, New Brunswick adopted a law requiring motorists to provide at least one metre of space when they pass cyclists travelling in the same direction.

“We know cyclists are more at risk; that’s why we’re taking steps across Canada to keep them less at risk,” Smith says.

“Putting skateboarders in a position where they are being treated as cyclists were [treated] when cyclists were first introduced to road traffic would necessarily result in increasing collisions and in increasing injuries and in increasing fatalities.”

Evans supports bylaw change

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans says he supports changing the traffic bylaw to allow skateboarding on streets partly because it’s about sharing public spaces.

“I’m a big believer in peaceful co-existence,” Evans said in a telephone interview.

“If we allow bicycles, we have to be consistent. Many skateboarders are more in control than many cyclists,” he added.

Evans says that over the years, town council has heard arguments from skateboarding enthusiasts that they shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens.

Although he says he’s not a skateboard, ATV or snowmobile user himself, he doesn’t want his preferences to intrude on the rights of others.

“I’m a civil libertarian by default,” Evans says.

Next steps

Councillor Black says that before the bylaw change is given final approval, council will still need to pass it on second and third readings when safety concerns could be discussed.

“We’re not just blindly saying, ‘Yep, let’s allow it,'” he says, adding that the  Safety Council’s questions will have to be considered.

“I think the rest of [town] council should realize this as well before making that decision.”

To read the Canada Safety Council’s recommendations on using bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards and scooters, click here.

To read CHMA’s coverage of the skateboard bylaw story, click here.

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9 Responses to Canada Safety Council warns Sackville not to allow skateboards on town streets

  1. Peter Edwards says:

    ““I’m a civil libertarian by default,” Evans says” ? The Councilor seems to have a knack for malapropisms.

    • Although I do not agree with Councillor Evans on the substantive matter, I shall defend his right to invoke the term “civil libertarian”. It appears in the OED, so that is good enough for me.

  2. Geoff Martin says:

    What is the advice of the Town solicitor? (Please tell us that you asked.) Will the Town face liability the first time a skateboarder gets hurt? Does the Government of NB have a position on this? Can skateboarders travel on provincial highways?

  3. Sharon Hicks says:

    Note – as a result of this article, I am sending the following to our Acting Mayor and Councilors …

    It’s refreshing to read the common-sense wisdom from the representative of the Canada Safety Council, on the subject of whether skateboards should be allowed on streets. Their list of safety precautions for skateboards, as listed on their website, makes perfect sense.

    Councilor Black, who proposed this motion to council, is a self-professed skateboard user, his ‘longboard’ being just another form of ‘skateboard’. He admits having ‘boarded’ on Sackville town streets before he knew that it was banned, and is looking forward to being able to ‘board’ on the streets again once the bylaw is amended to allow that. One interesting point is that in his interview with Erica Butler of CHMA, he stated “once the bylaw is changed”, and not “if the bylaw is changed”.

    In that CHMA article, the councilor mentioned that the discussion around this proposed change began last September, and goes on to say that “we” were discussing the idea of bringing it before Council again to see if there was ‘any interest in changing it’.

    Who was included in that “we”? Were there any requests made from citizens to be allowed to use skateboards on town streets? Or is this just Councilor Black’s own initiative? I would hope that would not be the case, because that would be seen by many as being very self-serving for a councilor who was elected to represent the wishes of town citizens, and not just his own wishes and self-interests.

    If this proposal is the result of a study carried out by a group, where is the information showing the results of any such study, and who carried out the study?

    Councilor Black has been quoted as saying the existing ban keeping skateboards off streets is “silly”, and also mentioned that while there “might” be a safety issue, he thinks the decision should be left up to the individuals themselves.

    This argument sounds very much like the rationale presented lately by groups of ‘anti-maskers’, who insist they should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they want to wear the facemasks which have been mandated by the Provincial government. In short, they are thinking only of their own self-interests, without any thought to the safety of others around them.

    What this current bylaw motion is proposing, for the sake of “simplicity”, is just to delete the wording from the bylaw which bans the use of skateboards on streets, and add ‘skateboards’ to the list of allowed ‘street traffic’, with the only provision being that boarders must wear helmets.

    While Councilor Black would obviously welcome the ability to use his longboard on town streets, has he given any consideration to the fact that adults wanting to use them to get to work are not the only users of ‘boards’ in town? In fact, I would guess they would be in the minority, based on what I see around town. The majority would appear to be ‘kids’, as young as 7 or 8, and right up to high school age.

    Councilor Black likens skateboarding to riding a bike, but he seems to have overlooked a few major important features which differentiates the two. First, there are no brakes on skateboards. Sackville being as hilly as it is, with older narrow streets, and with numerous potholes and uneven paving in many areas, would it be safe for children (or anyone else, for that matter) to use skateboards on our town streets? The method of slowing down a skateboard apparently is to ‘lean alternately left and right’ – so should a skateboarder veer left into the path of traffic, or veer right and fetch up on a sidewalk curb or into a ditch, depending on where they are boarding?

    Add to this issue the fact that there are no bells or horns or lights on skateboards – so it is more difficult to make their presence known to other traffic, whether in daylight or evening hours.

    One might ask Councilor Black whether he would have his own children using skateboards on our town streets? On their own? Using their own judgement as to whether or not they should intermingle with vehicle traffic? And does he feel that the use of a helmet alone would be enough to ensure his children’s safety?

    Councilor Black has stated he feels skateboards are as safe as bicycles, but upon what evidence does he base that opinion? Where is the documentation showing the safety comparisons between the two? Or is Councilor Black just expressing his own opinion?

    Some councilors have previously pointed out the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ in relation to what is most beneficial for the Town as a whole. To make this proposed bylaw change does not appear to be in the overall best interest of our town citizens, and therefore would not be classed as a “need”. Instead, it appears to be the result of the ‘wants’ of just one Councilor.

    When we elect Councilors, we expect them to rely on factual evidence when making decisions which affect the whole town, rather than base their actions solely on their own opinions.

    Finally, one can’t overlook the fact that this issue appears to be a potential conflict of interest for Councilor Black, who clearly stands to gain personally, as he has stated, if this bylaw motion were to be passed. He would get his wish to use his longboard on town streets, which he has admittedly wanted for some time. With that in mind, should he not be expected to recuse himself from the debate and decision-making process?

    • Alan Barbour says:

      !! Breaking News !!

      – Sackville Senior Citizen Opposes Skateboarding:

      “This is a slippery slope that can only lead to moral degradation and death.” says senior, “Young people may be passionate about skateboarding, but it’s my duty as an older person to ‘fight like hell’ and keep this illegal. It’s for their own good.”

  4. If safety is the primary concern then there is a simple solution. Reduce speed limits within town borders to 30 km/hr. We will all be safer.

  5. Kata List Productions says:

    Longboarding comes with some risks, just like taking a new vaccine.. the riders take on that risk in order to exercise their bodies and enjoy the sport and their choice of mode of transportation – Andrew Black is a fit young father of three… I support his use of the board and his freedom loving promotion of the sport in general .. he is responsible and reasonable but he will be judged by a ‘community’ of aging people who it seems in some cases need ramps just to get into coffee shops and sit and talk about the world passing them by so of course they don’t share his views, his fitness level or his sensibilities. I had asked for him to help us get a new, large, great concrete skatepark built in our town for the youth… I had asked a lot of people to help … what I found is apathy to be honest and I have wasted a lot of time trying to get a great project built by a town council and town hall staff with very different priorities than doing something good for our deserving youth….. Skateboarders are talented and fit and they are individualistic… I wish I could say the same for the old timers who continually complain about them and their sport and look down on our youth and their passion for fun and adventure in a small rural Canadian town.

  6. Alex Thomas says:

    Meanwhile, every skateboarder is like “cool, I’ll continue to skate away from by-law officers if they try to ticket me”. Unjust laws will be broken. Change the law.

  7. Ross Thomas says:

    I would agree with the Safety Council that mixing any kind of non motorized transportation, whether it be skateboards, bicycles, scooters, roller \blades or walking, poses risks to the non motorized user. The elephant in the room here however is not the non motorized user but the cars and trucks.
    If council is even a smidgen sincere about controlling greenhouse gases and promoting active transportation then they need to look at taming the elephant. If cars are restricted to 30 km/hr it might take an extra minute to get from the lights down town to the line up at Tim Horton’s. and???
    Or they could provide a lane for scooter, another for skateboards, one for bikes….It’s way easier to “Share the Road”. Let’s figure out how to do it safely.

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