New restrictions on longboarding quietly introduced in the City of Chilliwack will have little effect on the sport, according to those involved.
Jackson Vanderveen and Nick Hurley, both sponsored by The Truth Skate & Snow, say new prohibitions on the sport on some of the most popular streets doesn’t mean they’ll stop, even if that means fines.
“It’s just unfortunate because, regardless, this is what we do, this is what we love to do and we are probably still going to be skateboarding on the roads,” the 20-year-old Hurley said.
Hurley and Vanderveen chatted with the Times on Weeden Drive on Promontory on June 2 where they were skating. Weeden is one of the most popular longboarding hills for the freeriding style, where skaters slide and turn trying not to put their hands on the road.
Weeden is also one of four roads where recreational longboarding is now prohibited.
The issue over longboarding in the city has been considered by staff and the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) for some time. Increased activity over the years, coupled with highly publicized incidents involving injury and even death in other communities, prompted the city to act.
On Jan. 20, 17-year-old Ryan Thomas Wallace-Tarry died after he was hit while skateboarding by an oncoming flatbed truck in Nanaimo.
On Jan. 2, a 16-year-old boarder also died in the Comox Valley.
Most recently, on June 2, 11-year-old Dustin Mackenzie died of the injuries he sustained while longboarding without a helmet in Abbotsford two days before.
Some municipalities, such as West Vancouver, have totally banned the sport. But even there the mayor has conceded it’s difficult to enforce.
Others, like North Vancouver, have tried to restrict it in certain areas, which is, essentially, the Chilliwack approach.
City staff have created a complicated criteria to figure out where longboarding will be allowed. To start with, it is prohibited on all arterial and collector roads. As to local roads, there is a complex calculus to determine if the road in question is subject to prohibition or if the sport will be permitted. To be permitted, the road has to have traffic volume of fewer than 3,000 vehicles per 24 hours and have visibility greater than 65 metres. If the road width is less or greater than 8.5 metres and whether or not there is on-street parking adds more variables.
Using the criteria, longboarding is now prohibited on four out of the five most popular streets: Elk View Road, Teskey Way, Promontory Road and, where Vanderveen and Hurley were skating recently, Weeden Drive.
One neighbour on Weeden, who didn’t not to give his name, said he thought longboarding was too dangerous on the road, and he supported the restrictions.
Weeden resident Kim Mallory agreed.
“I would say that it’s a really, really dangerous place to play,” she said. “They’ve always been fairly respectful of traffic but it’s just not safe. I agree that it should be prohibited on Weeden Drive.”
Somewhat ironically, the new restrictions instituted by city hall are actually less restrictive to the sport than what existed previously. That’s because while the new policy prohibits longboarding on specific roads, it also permits the sport on some roads. And if not instituted, longboarding was technically already a violation of the city’s highway and traffic bylaw, which states that “no person shall . . . engage in any sport, amusement, exercise or occupation on any highway which may delay the passage of traffic or cause any obstruction.”
(Of course this means that, technically, street hockey is also a bylaw violation.)
One roadway in particular of note to the skater community where it is now permitted is Chartwell Drive on Little Mountain, a mecca for longboarders.
Overall, members of the TAC, which received the staff report and approved the recommendations, agreed that a total ban was unfair and unrealistic.
The changes didn’t have to go before city council because, according to manager of transportation Rod Sanderson, the sport is technically already a bylaw violation.
Sanderson told the Times, on June 2, the city was still waiting for the first complaint of the season.
Because bylaws are complaint driven, until a complaint is made, longboarding can be done anywhere.
As with road hockey, if Vanderveen and Hurley are right and their practices generate no friction with residents, then they are doing nothing wrong.
No complaints, no fine.
As to enforcement, bylaw officers have two options: $50 or $200.
But even that, at least the $50 one, won’t likely deter sponsored skaters like Vanderveen and Hurley who need to practice for the sport they travel around the province to compete in on weekends.
“I used to mountain bike and a lift ticket cost more money than the penalty for skateboarding,” Vanderveen said. “I’m paying a cheap price to skate in comparison to skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking.”
And whether or not they will get any complaints is uncertain, and maybe even unlikely as the City of Chilliwack is kind of late to the longboarding party. The sport peaked as a fad a few years back, when Vanderveen and Hurley said lots of young kids would come out to Weeden, swear and leave garbage and generally be a nuisance to neighbours.
Fewer kids are into the sport now, they say, and most residents aren’t worried about safety or the dangers of longboarding itself, it’s the swearing and the garbage.
“No that all the kids are gone, that’s disappeared,” Vanderveen said.
“I was kind of surprised it didn’t happen earlier and it wasn’t a straight-out ban, to be honest.”
Vanderveen added that most of the better longboarders have a good relationship with RCMP officers in Chilliwack, and he hopes that continues.
“The cops in Chilliwack are actually phenomenal compared to everywhere else I’ve heard,” Vanderveen said.
Both Hurley and Vanderveen are thankful the city took a measured approach to permit skating in some places, but they don’t like being picked on for trying to do their sport.
“Would you rather I was inside playing video games, smoking dope, drinking?” Vanderveen said. “This is what I enjoy doing and I can’t change what I like to do just because you don’t like it.”