The City of Victoria will be stepping up enforcement, specifically targeting skateboarders riding on sidewalks in the downtown core in the coming months.
Come Nov. 1, bylaw officers and Victoria police will begin issuing tickets for skateboard-related offences, including riding on sidewalks, which comes with a $125 fine.
“I think there's been some misunderstanding from the skateboarding community. We need to do a better job of making that distinction,” said Mayor Lisa Helps during a meeting Thursday. “It's a matter of pedestrian safety, particularly the safety of seniors and moms with children, and everyone else. Sidewalks are for pedestrians.”
Previous bylaws prohibited skateboarding on downtown streets and allowed police and bylaw officers to impound skateboards. However, new bylaws which came into effect Feb. 1, permit skateboarders, roller skates, in-line skates and non-motorized scooters on downtown Victoria streets, granted they follow the same rights and responsibilities as cyclists. In addition, skateboards can no longer be impounded.
Despite an education and awareness program that included new signage and Victoria police stopping skateboarders to educate them about the policy changes over the past eight months, many still aren't getting the message.
According to a staff report, the number of people skateboarding on city sidewalks on downtown streets had increased, since bylaw changes came into effect. Many skateboarders are aware of the regulation, but know their skateboard can no longer be taken away, and are less motivated to comply with the regulation, noted the report.
Coun. Geoff Young said council might have to accept the possibility that some skateboarders just don't feel comfortable on streets and will continue to ride on the sidewalk.
“Maybe those skateboarders are actually acting in a life preserving way and the fact is they won't ever feel comfortable on the street. Skateboarders who are physically smaller (than vehicles), who are not wearing helmets, who may be very inconspicuous will not feel comfortable acting if they were a vehicle,” he said.
The changes were an attempt to make city streets more friendly to all users. In the past, some seniors have reported close encounters with skateboarders, with the last serious reported collision occurring in July 2012 at the intersection of Government and View involving two pedestrians and a skateboarder. Since Feb. 1, there have only been two reported collisions related to skateboarding, both involving a skateboarder and a car.
There have been 28 tickets issued over the past few years, with the exception of the past eight months, regarding skateboarding downtown, however, it is not clear if the tickets were issued for riding on sidewalks or other skateboard-related offences.