Sunday, July 28, 2013

Creative Solutions to Longboarding in Pelham

When Town Council recently prohibited skateboarding and longboarding on four sections of roads in Pelham, we acted to protect longboarder’s safety.

Town Staff and the Niagara Regional Police (NRP) brought their concerns to Council’s attention at our July 15 regular meeting. The NRP had received 37 calls (from 22 different individuals) about youth longboarding for hours-on-end on sections of Overholt, Elizabeth, Shoalts, and Effingham.

We learned that while our current Traffic & Parking Bylaw does prohibit “playing on roadways”, the bylaw is out-of-date and refers only to "roller skating" and "coastering" (whatever that was?).

Council decided to prohibit longboarding on those four road-segments and directed staff to draft an updated bylaw, to determine the cost to construct a longboarding run in the Riehl Skatepark, and to meet with youth and neighbours to develop creative solutions.

We met last Thursday with Pelham longboarders and parents, a concerned neighbour, the NRP, and Staff. We used our creative problem solving process to investigate “How might we work with the community to ensure the safety of youth long-(skate-) boarding on municipal streets?” After identifying 78 facts, the group developed 45 ideas, and settled on key ideas for Council’s consideration.

A multifaceted approach will be proposed:
close Overholt Road to vehicular traffic for the quarter-mile from Hansler to Pelham North; (It is anticipated that closing this infrequently-used section of road (with no driveways) to vehicle traffic (~30 cars per day) will be much more cost effective than constructing a run in the environmentally-sensitive Marlene Stewart-Streit Park.)
install two gates so that the road might still be used by local farmers, the fire service, and staff (for maintenance);
prohibit and establish fines for “recreational” longboarding on all other Pelham roads but allow “transportational” longboarding;
the Town and the user group enforce strict use guidelines – like mandatory helmets and pads, dawn-to-dusk usage, times for different ability levels, and a potential safety accreditation;
consider the installation of waste / recycling containers, a portable washroom, and a small, gravel parking area;
continue with the planned, small, novice longboarding area at the new Riehl Skatepark;
work with the user group for maintenance and to develop safety training / accreditation for novice longboarders;
youth immediately self-limited longboarding on Donahugh Drive to three-days-per-week for reduced hours.

“Recreational” Longboarding is the continual riding down and climbing up on a road for hours-on-end. This differs from "transportation" longboarding where a longboarder uses the road to travel from place-to-place. The Provincial Highway Traffic Act treats longboarders as “pedestrians” that must wear a helmet; longboarders weaving on roads could face Provincial charges.

I believe this proposal will help elevate safety and other concerns of longboarding in Pelham and I am very impressed with the group of youth with whom I met. Town Councillors and I are very interested in your feedback prior to our discussion at Council on August 12.

August 13 UPDATE:
Council received three presentations (two opposed and one in favour), 2 petitions, +500 form letters, and +35 other items of correspondence regarding this issue at our meeting last night.
Following receipt of these items, Council asked staff to conduct a creative problem solving session with key stakeholders before making a definitive decision regarding a safe home for recreational longboarding. 
Council also passed a motion that none of the longboarding options to be considered can include the permanent closure of any Pelham road – including Overholt.