July 16, 2013 - 1:24 PM
VERNON - City officials are worried a popular high speed activity is going to have a tragic outcome.
Longboarding has been the source of many complaints from neighbourhoods featuring the slopes that make the activity such a rush, including the Rise, Middleton Mountain and the Foothills.
"I'm not a longboarder, but essentially, I think the goal is to get the thrill from speed," Vernon mayor Rob Sawatzky says. "Concerned citizens don't want to be the ones that hit, kill or injure these longboarders."
RCMP say longboarding is outside the Motor Vehicle Act, so any regulations on the activity have to come from the city.
"Longboards on a public thoroughfare are not against the Motor Vehicle Act," the city's chief administrative officer, Will Pearce, says. "If they are operating as a bicycle they are fine.... as long as they are not seen as blocking traffic."
The Rise neighbourhood association asked council to make longboarding illegal and to enforce compliance, but Pearce says strata developments are the ones responsible for private roadways, not the city.
Sawatzky doesn't want to do anything that would discourage young people from spending time outdoors.
"It's certainly an issue where you're balancing wanting to see healthy active young people, and at the same time it's a dangerous risk taking activity. When human bodies meet cars, cars always win," Sawatzky says.
Which is why the city is considering a bylaw which would require longboarders to wear safety gear, including helmets.
"We can definitely bring in bylaws," Sawatzky says. "The problem you always have is how do you enforce those bylaws? If you bring in bylaws that are unenforcable, it makes a mockery of your other important bylaws."
Already, municipal regulations in the city's traffic bylaw restrict longboarding use, including speed, on sidewalks and the roadway, but police enforcement is rare because longboarding isn't included under the Motor Vehicle Act. The challenge would be getting longboarders to respect, rather than ignore, the rules.
"These are young productive people whose lives are ahead of them, it would be an awful thing if someone was hurt or killed," Sawatzky says.
He wonders how much safety responsibility lies with the city, and how much should be shouldered by parents.
"I think a lot of it comes down to good parenting," he says. "Should parents who love their kids allow them to be out on a four wheeled device surrounded by cars and pavement and concrete with no helmet on?"
Sawatzky says the city will be looking into the possibility of a longboarding bylaw, but hopes parents will also do their part in educating their kids about the importance of safety.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013