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Council should stop avoiding skateboard decision

Web posted on May 29, 2001

In My Opinion
by James Coons

City council almost got it right this time, but they wimped out at the last minute. At Monday's council meeting, they had a chance to finally establish guidelines for the city's skateboarders, but at the last minute decided to refer the issue back to the Planning, Works and Environment committee for more study.

Some of the issues under discussion are whether skateboarding should be allowed downtown and if it is indeed a legitimate mode of transportation. Many people, not just our councillors, have concerns because they see a few nasty skateboarders downtown and take that as representative of the entire culture. They are also concerned about safety and about damage to property.

Guelph resident Steve Petric has spoken to council on several occasions and presented statistics to prove that the sport is possibly less dangerous than rollerblading and cycling. He has also made the point that skaters do not have trouble controlling their boards, as many observers think. However, city staff to date have largely discounted the information he has supplied.

Since city council seems incapable of making a decision with the information they have, it is probably appropriate that the matter be referred to committee. However, what they need to do at that level is get down to it and put a serious effort into coming up with a workable solution.

Let's have a skateboard bylaw which outlines requirements such as the wearing of helmets until age 18, signalling turns and riding on the road just like other vehicles. The current suggestion that skateboards should use the sidewalks is idiotic. First of all, pedestrians and skaters don't mix and secondly, sidewalk cracks are not kind to the smooth rolling of the boards.

There is really no place in busy public areas for tricks. The bylaw should regulate this activity to park settings or skateboard parks - and the city should establish some parks. That this is on their agenda is a step in the right direction.

While sending most of the issues back to committee, council did see fit to ban skateboarding from the downtown core. Banning it is one thing, enforcing it is another. We'll have to wait and see what happens with this one.

James Coons skateboards occasionally but never downtown.