COLUMN: Longboarding bans not helping the issue

Why is this 'dangerous' activity being singled out by municipal councils?

Longboarding is one of the latest trends to activate the ire – and municipal actions – of many in Surrey and White Rock.

Despite bans, longboarders still find areas to practise their sport on the Peninsula and beyond.

In the neighbourhoods where it’s popular, residents will tell you longboarders are foul-mouthed, cheeky youth who leave nothing but trash behind and endanger their own lives as well as the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and other roadway users.

Some say it’s the culture and related potentially unhealthy activities that longboarding apparently triggers.

I’m just wondering why longboarding is being singled out by municipal councils as an activity to be banned. Didn’t everyone say the same things about regular skateboarding when it became popular years ago? How about snowboarding?

Bicyclists are unsafe on our local roads every single day. So are scooter riders. And motorcyclists. People who participate in these activities are often injured or even killed, whether due to their own unsafe actions or due to others’.

How about pick-up hockey games and the beer and potential unhealthy and/or illegal activities related to this Canadian sport? People get injured during recreational hockey games all the time – some so seriously, they end up in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.

So why isn’t playing hockey banned?

In my experience, youth riding longboards are simply trying to improve their level of expertise at this sport; most are polite and safety-aware – some groups will appoint a spotter, for example. All the longboarders I’ve encountered wear helmets and many wear other protective gear as well.

Most do not appear to leave trash behind and many are helpful, whether giving directions to passing drivers or helping local residents locate and catch dogs who’ve escaped a nearby yard.

Would those banning the sport rather these youth be inside, on the couch, playing video games or texting on their computers, tablets or various other electronic devices?

Each week it seems there’s a new report about rising rates of obesity in youngsters. So why stop them from being active and doing something they love?

Many longboarding advocates say the key is education about safety on the roads. They’re right – but this is key for everyone, not just for longboarders.

Cyclists, scooter users, inline skaters and the many who use the sit-down scooters or other devices on busy roadways could all benefit from a focus on safety on the roads. So could regular skateboarders, longboarders and drivers. How about hockey players? Taking a look at arena safety couldn’t hurt.

Sure, longboarders don’t pay insurance to be on the roads the way drivers of vehicles do.

Neither do cyclists. Or scooter riders, or rollerbladers, or runners, or regular skateboarders.

Singling out one sport or activity is counter-productive and even harmful, as it forces those practising it to find more secluded and perhaps, more dangerous areas to focus on their passion.

Safety first is a great concept. Municipal councils and community groups should ensure that applies to everyone, rather than target any specific group.

Targeting any one activity seems biased. Not to mention pointless.

Inclusiveness, rather than exclusivity is often cited as the only way to proceed on community issues. Why not start with education about road safety for all?

Rather than single out longboarders and push them to the fringes, include them – and cyclists, and scooter users, and safety officials – and the entire community in the conversation.

Otherwise, longboarders are likely not learning the lessons municipal councils and anti-longboarding advocates want them to  learn.

Municipalities need to start including everyone in the conversation, rather than condemn one group for wanting to practice their passion.

White Rock and Surrey should lead by example.

Starting now.

Tricia Leslie is a former Black Press reporter.

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