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District bans longboards on Skyline

Bylaw latest sally in long fight over sport

NORTH Vancouver longboarders lost ground in their fight to keep their sport on public streets Monday when district council voted to ban skateboards from one of the most popular downhill routes in the municipality.

The new bylaw, which passed in a 4-3 split, makes it illegal for longboarders to ride down Skyline Drive and the adjoining Glenview Crescent, a long, winding stretch of road that regularly draws dozens of boarders, and which has been a focal point of the debate about the controversial sport. The regulation was adopted in response to complaints from drivers and residents who fear longboarders' use of the road is a recipe for disaster.

"I've tried to be openminded," said Coun. Alan Nixon, who supported the motion. "I can be - everywhere except Skyline."

Without a ban, it would only be a matter of time before a serious accident occurs, he said.

Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn agreed: "I would argue that the residents' quality of life has been adversely affected," he said.

Unlike previous efforts by the municipality to restrict the sport, which have drawn dozens of longboarders to council meetings to voice opposition, Monday's less well-publicized initiative drew only one athlete. The man did not speak at the meeting.

Speaking to the North Shore News Tuesday, Les Robertson, marketing manager with Rayne Longboards, said the Skyline ban was a bad move that would in no way improve safety.

"They might as well just go ban it outright, because nothing actually changes," he said.

Robertson pointed to West Vancouver, where skateboards are prohibited on all public roads.

"Go (there) midday on a hot, sunny day," he said. "Those kids are out there skating in big packs."

The sport is less dangerous than numerous other outdoor activities, said Robertson, citing swimming as an example. Ontario and Quebec have seen 45 swimming fatalities so far this year, he noted.

"I don't hear anybody screaming about banning swimming or preventing people from going into the water," he said. "There's not been a single longboarder dead this year."

At best, the Skyline ban will just move riders to other streets, said Robertson.

Coun. Roger Bassam, who opposed the Monday motion, made a similar prediction, saying it would just shift the problem somewhere else.

"I think it's just a movealong without dealing with root causes," he said. A ban on one road will lead other neighbourhoods to lobby for the same restriction, according to Bassam. "We'll start with Skyline; where does it stop?" he asked.

The municipality should just continue to enforce the rules it passed last March, which allow bylaw officers to issue $100 fines and to impound the boards of reckless riders, said Bassam. Most longboarders comply with regulations, he said.

Coun. Mike Little expressed similar sentiments.

"I have no interest in us playing a cat and mouse game with the bylaw," he said. "(And) I can't support a ban on longboarding en masse."

But moving the longboarders elsewhere might reduce the chances of a fatality, said Nixon. He suggested Delbrook Avenue as a safer alternative.

Bassam was unconvinced. "I believe Delbrook has a much higher traffic volume," he said.

Coun. Lisa Muri advocated an engineering solution, such as a rumble strip or speed bumps to make the road unusable for longboarders.

"I'm not convinced that rumble strips will work," Nixon said, raising the possibility of longboarders setting up jumps to bypass engineered obstacles.

Mayor Richard Walton, agreeing that the situation on Skyline was dangerous - and saying he would be willing to ban the sport across the district if it came to that - nonetheless suggested reconvening in two weeks to give the longboarding community a chance to respond to the proposed Skyline ban.

Coun. Robin Hicks poohpoohed that idea.

"We don't need to hear every person who longboards or every resident who's affected to make a decision," said Hicks, arguing that council had already listened to concerns from a representative sample of the community.

"The summer will be passed and that behaviour will be entrenched," agreed MacKayDunn.

The motion passed with Walton, Little and Bassam opposed.

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