Kurt Gallant

Kurt Gallant

Kicked to the curb

Longboarders say they aren’t daredevils, but district wants them off the roads

Longboarders are no longer welcome on Barkley Terrace.

Citing safety, Oak Bay banned longboarding down the steep and narrow street.

Council asked staff to research different traffic calming measures, including fines and physically altering the street to discourage longboarding, which has become a popular activity in the area.

“It’s difficult to ban,” said Kurt Gallant a longboarder who enjoys the Barkley run. “There is always going to be somewhere else (longboarders will go).”

Staff was also asked to identify other streets longboarders may move to, and get a legal opinion on the municipality’s liability should a longboarder be injured.

Gallant, 18, along with two other longboarders, met with Mayor Nils Jensen and Oak Bay police community liaison officer Rick Anthony earlier this month to seek a middle ground solution, which is now moot, at least on Barkley Terrace.

Gallant has been longboarding since he was 15 and works at One Six Boardshop, which sponsors him in longboarding competitions. He said the popularity of the sport is growing rapidly and is not inherently dangerous. He is concerned with young teens and children new to the sport and said they need proper safety education.

“When I was in elementary school we had a bike rodeo, where you learned how to ride safe and stop safely,” Gallant said. “The majority of longboarders are quite safe.”

Gallant said his friends conducted a test on Barkley Terrace, one going down on a bike and the other on a longboard, during dry conditions. Once they clocked 60 km/h, they both slammed on the brakes and the longboarder was able to stop eight feet sooner than the cyclist.

“People look at us thinking we’re out of control but 99 per cent of the time, we can stop in a matter of metres,” Gallant said. “We’re not daredevils trying to hurt ourselves. If it’s not safe, I wouldn’t skate a hill.”

However, council based its decision on four residents who made passionate pleas urging them to ban the activity from their street.

“There have been some serious near misses and it could have lead to some serious accidents,” said John Schofield, who produced a petition signed by 20 people, representing approximately 75 per cent of Barkley Terrace homes. “I’m not against healthy activity for young people and children, just Barkley Terrace is not the place for it.”

“One thing about this street is it’s not designed for this,” said Manjeet Mann, a cardiologist and area resident. “I don’t have a problem with people doing it, it’s just too hazardous. Someone is going to have a fatal, life-changing accident.”

Mann told council that even with helmets and safety gear, brain and spinal cord injury are still a risk as a person’s head can snap when it falls backwards and hits concrete or a curb. He also said helmets cannot completely prevent internal head injuries.

Jensen was sympathetic to the longboarders, but Mann’s assessment won out.

“Listening to the doctor and his view on severe, life changing injuries was a compelling voice we heard tonight,” Jensen said. “The core issue council has focused on is the ultimate safety of the kids.”

Coun. Cairine Green was also persuaded by the Mann’s comments, but extended an olive branch to the longboarders.

“It’s very important to continue the conversation with young people in this community,” Green said. “Maybe we can recruit these young people onto the active transportation committee.”

Before council voted, resident Terry Wickstrom spoke in favour of letting the longboarders continue, equating them to kids playing street hockey who would stop a game and move the nets whenever a vehicle appeared. He said the longboarders wear appropriate safety gear, have spotters watching for cars and he doesn’t want to see a healthy activity for youth banned.

“The street is a dead end with a speed limit of 20 km/h – which is hardly obeyed – and carries little traffic,” said Wickstrom. “It’s a popular walking route, it’s a recreation area, really. There are a lot of people using it and the boys have been remarkably polite.”