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.
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?”
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.