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.”
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 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.
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.