When longboarders coast down a steep and curvy road in Chilliwack, things can get a little tricky.
If they stick to the bike lane or side of the road, it’s usually ok.
When they commandeer the entire width of the road, with riders two and three abreast, complaints start coming into city hall from angry citizens.
A new strategy seeks to strike a balance between the needs of recreational longboarders, and those of the rest of the community.
Coun. Chuck Stam, also TAC chair, said in coming up with the new approach, they tried to stay “sensitive” to the needs of local youth and the longboarding community. So while they still want to encourage healthy, active lifestyles, it has to be balanced with respect for all road users.
Arterial and collector roads, which are the most heavily used and where traffic cannot be impeded, will see recreational longboarding prohibited in Chilliwack. That means they won’t be able to weave down roads like: Elk View Road, Teskey Way, Promontory, and Weeden Drive.
In each hillside neighbourhood in Chilliwack, the plan is to allow at least one residential road where longboarders will be allowed to do their thing. They’ll use criteria like grade, visibility, and width, when determining on which streets they’ll permit the practice.
Chartwell Drive is one example where they’ve decided to allow longboarding, based on the criteria.
“Council would be remiss if we did not say that we have a concern about safety,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz. “Kids often feel invincible — but they’re not.”
The new longboarding strategy will help keep everyone safer, she said.
Coun. Jason Lum agreed the approach taken by Chilliwack on this was a balanced one.
“I’m glad to see we’re not taking a heavy-handed approach,” he said, referring to the total ban being considered by Coquitlam.
Recreational longboarding is characterized by a type of downhill boarding with multiple trips, and multiple riders, as well as high rates of speed. It’s contrasted with a type of solo longboarding used more for direct transportation and commuting. Longboards are wider and longer than skateboards, with larger wheels.
It’s a complaint-driven process, and no changes were made to any bylaws. If a resident makes a complaint, city staff will evaluate the road, using the new criteria, and determine if it’s permitted or prohibited.
Snappy new signage will go up to clearly show where longboarding is allowed, as well as where it is not.
Unlike in West Vancouver and North Vancouver, where crashes and accidents are often in the news, the sport has not posed significant problems in Chilliwack. The RCMP had nine related complaints in 2012 and 2013, all of them from residents concerned about risky practices. All were the result of longboarding on hillside roads like Sylvan, Prest, Weeden, Elk View, and Chartwell.
The RCMP reported one incident of a collision involving a longboarder in Chilliwack. On May 25, 2013, a 25-year-old longboarder cut in front of a car at the Evans roundabout, disrespecting traffic regulations, according to RCMP. He was hit, and suffered minor injuries from which he recovered. But there has never been a longboarding fatality in the community, said CBC safety coordinator Mike Weightman, to his knowledge.
City officials took the position a couple of years ago not to outright prohibit the practice of downhill longboarding in Chilliwack. But when months of education efforts failed to stop the complaints coming in, they had to try something new. In response, the longboarding strategy was created with a mechanism to evaluate where to allow or prohibit this type of boarding.
“I think we would entertain a proposal in future from the recreational longboarders if they wanted to close off a road for a sanctioned event,” Stam said at the meeting. “I think we would be open to hearing that.”
A report for information was received at the Tuesday council meeting, by Rod Sanderson, manager of Transportation and Drainage, and council also approved the recommendations from the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) which detailed the new strategy.