Safety, liability, more experts say ‘no’ to skateboards on Sackville streets

Mt. A. politics professor Mario Levesque

A Mount Allison politics professor says if Sackville councillors vote to allow skateboarding on town streets, they’ll be exposing the town to serious liability and safety risks.

“Essentially, allowing skateboarders on Town roads introduces serious and significant risk and liability issues for the community,” Professor Mario Levesque wrote in an e-mail he sent last week to CAO Jamie Burke, Town Engineer Dwayne Acton, as well as the acting mayor and members of town council.

His e-mail included a recently published study he co-authored with Alex Marland and Philip Osborne for the academic journal Canadian Public Administration.

Levesque says the study, entitled “Suing Canadian Governments,” suggests the town would need to undertake an expensive program of regular and detailed street inspections to avoid potential liability for accidents involving skateboarders.

“For example, they’ll have to have a type of inspection program for their roads that documents changes in the road structure — whether that’s cracks in the road, whether that’s potholes — and also they’ll have to document when they found out about it and when they fixed them,” Levesque said in a telephone interview on Monday.

His comments echoed similar ones made by Town Engineer Dwayne Acton, who told council on April 6th that such an inspection program would likely require extra staff to handle the additional record keeping.

Acton and other town staff recommended against lifting the ban on street skateboarding, but a majority of councillors voted at their meeting on April 12th to support the development of bylaw changes that would permit skateboard use on municipal streets.

Safety hazards

Levesque’s e-mail to town staff and members of council, says a collision between a 75- to 175 lb person on a skateboard and a faster-moving vehicle weighing several tonnes could result in serious injuries leading to disability and death.

“Even just clipping their elbow, their arm will be shattered,” he said in our interview. “What happens if the person on a skateboard hits a stone and falls into the centre of the road and you run them over?” he asks.

“From a safety perspective, it makes no sense whatsoever.”

Levesque also dismisses the argument that there’s no essential difference between cyclists and skateboarders travelling on town streets.

He says he’s concerned that councillors are disregarding the advice of town lawyers who say the courts have held that skateboards are distinct from bicycles under the Motor Vehicle Act and that skateboarders are more similar to pedestrians.

“I think what is happening is they [councillors] are cherry picking what evidence they want to look at to put forth their own case,” he says.

“But…when there is an accident — I predict there will be an accident — it will be blood on their hands,” Levesque adds.

“Even if they’re found not liable for it in a court of law, how can they live with themselves knowing they caused a serious injury to someone, or worse?”

IWK advice

Samantha Noseworthy of Child Safety Link at the IWK

Samantha Noseworthy, Health Promotion Specialist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, says a significant number of municipalities across Canada have banned street skateboarding and her advice to Sackville town councillors would be to maintain the ban here as well.

“I would advise them to consider what the injury prevention organizations across the country are advocating for and that is to avoid skateboarding on those town streets just because of the dangers that can be created having skateboarders and drivers of vehicles in close proximity,” she said.

Noseworthy works for Child Safety Link, an organization based at the IWK that focuses on preventing injuries in children who are 14 and younger.

She says that while she knows that parents of very young children won’t allow them to skateboard on town streets, she’s still concerned about older ones.

“Once you get into that older age group, being 12, 13, 14, they have a little bit more autonomy a little bit more independence, maybe they’re out playing with their friends and parents don’t really realize exactly what’s going on,” Noseworthy says.

Meantime, Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention, also advises against skateboarding on streets, sidewalks and parking lots, adding “skateboard only in supervised, specially designed skateboarding parks.”

Stephanie Cowle, who speaks for Parachute, sent the following information based on research into skateboard injuries:
For coverage of the Canada Safety Council’s warning, click here.

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5 Responses to Safety, liability, more experts say ‘no’ to skateboards on Sackville streets

  1. Linda Mesheau says:

    Bruce Wark,
    I think citizens would like to know exactly why the courts equate skateboarders with pedestrians rather than with bicyclists. Could you dive into this topic and help us understand?
    We do have lots of potholes every year that take quite some time to be repaired. The Town is not concerned that these potholes affect bicycle safety, but has stated they are concerned about these same potholes affecting skateboarders… why?
    Are these potholes more dangerous to skateboards because their wheels are so small? If so, this has not been clearly communicated by The Town management.
    Perhaps your journalism skills can help us out here. Can you investigate and explain it to us! Thanks!

    From Bruce Wark:

  2. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    Thanks Bruce… In a small town we have a lot less traffic for skateboarders to contend with and I like to think the people here are mindful of their fellow road users — we certainly make an effort to acknowledge the importance of using bicycles to get around and keep our bodies healthier and more fit by travelling on ‘green’ wheels….. this is such a hot topic so I have to ask people how they feel about the overall idea of a great skatepark being a better place for our youth to hang out on rather than the streets at this point where we are all quarantined essentially in our town for the duration… seems like pushing for a new concrete skatepark project in our town could be a win-win now eh? And before I get clobbered again by Les Hicks – yes I do have a right to advocate, as I have done since 2013, for a great skatepark for our youth — this project is long overdue and others who understand the sport and its value do agree with me. Trying to be constructive about issues makes us unify instead of divide… something that’s worth working towards – a fundraiser wouldn’t even be necessary when one considers the CAFR budgets and funds available to us as taxpayers. This might require some digging by individuals who want to learn about money and govt and funds.

  3. Les Hicks says:

    Thanks Bruce for this latest update on the hazards of skateboarding in traffic on roads. It might help people who are unconvinced about the relative hazards of riding a skateboard or a bicycle on roads to consider that the typical diameters of skateboard wheels is 50 – 75 mm (, while bicycle wheel sizes range from 239 to 400 mm on children’s bicycles and 610 to 660 mm on adult bicycles (,diameter%20size%20of%20571%20mm.) Using ‘common sense’, it should be apparent that the effect of cracks, potholes, loose gravel, or broken pieces of asphalt in roadways will have much more of an impact on the controllability of a skateboard relative to that of a bicycle, which is why safety associations advise against allowing the use of skateboards on roads.

    I hope that town councillors will reconsider their unfortunate decision to enact changes to the current bylaw that would allow skateboarding on town roads after taking into account this recent information provided by Professor Levesque and Ms. Noseworthy. Considering all of this information provided by safety groups and legal experts, I have serious concerns about the judgement of the councillor who first proposed this change to the by-law.

  4. Tom M says:

    So… has anyone bothered speaking to municipalities who allow skateboarding on their streets? I’m curious why Sackville thinks it constantly needs to reinvent the wheel? Other municipalities allow it, so why not speak with them? A quick google search tells me there’s many towns and cities across Canada who allow skateboarding on their streets, so how do they do it? Some municipalities even offer maps to show skateboarders what streets have accessible use pathways for them.

    This isn’t something “new”. It’s been a thing, all over Canada, for decades. It seems TOS and others are just searching for reasons not to do it.

    Mr. Levesque comments are pretty goofy considering he’s “cherry picked” his evidence as well. Also, blood on their hands? Relax Mario.

  5. Ross Estabrooks says:

    So What does a Politics major have to do with Safety and skateboards. Professors seldom live in the real world, they are students who never want to leave the classroom. The fact that skateboards are not permitted in town is ridiculous it proves that the sitting Mayor and council have no contact with the real world or want to deal with the real issues in the town. Forget about the skateboards and drive thrus and focus on town business that matters. Lets focus on bringing jobs to Sackville, lets focus on issues at the fire department. Lets work on making Sackville more that a giant Lafford apartment complex and bedroom community for Moncton and make it “SACKVILLE” again.

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