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Sharing the streets

 

JULIA KILPATRICK, The Gazette

Published: 6 hours ago

 

Skateboard users risk fines as well as injury when they travel on public arteries like sidewalks or bike paths. But while aficionados complain about the regulations, police say their goal is safety

 

Turning his back to the traffic screaming past a small skateboard park east of the Gay Village, Kyle Naylor pulled his board out of his backpack.

 

The skateboard was split in two jagged pieces. A car had run over it earlier, when Naylor was skating to the park for an afternoon session with friends.

 

"My friends all put in some cash so I could buy a new board," Naylor, 18, said.

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"We didn't want to miss out on our skate day."

 

Skateboard commuters like Naylor risk more than a broken board when they choose to ride on the street. Bylaws prohibit skateboarding on Montreal's roads and sidewalks. Fines for ignoring the rules range from $30 to $300.

 

Commander Daniel Touchette, of the Montreal police traffic division, says the fines are justified because skateboarders are not equipped to share the roads with other vehicles.

 

"The regulations exist for the safety of skateboarders," he said. "If they are on the street and they fall, there's no saying where they might go."

 

Naylor's broken board appears to support that argument, but the statistics don't.

 

Montreal police issued 116 tickets for offences related to skateboarding or inline skating in the street in 2006, Touchette said.

 

Police records don't specify when a motor vehicle accident involves a skateboarder, yet Touchette said that, to his knowledge, there have been no serious or fatal accidents involving skateboarders in the past year.

 

Last year, the city added 25 kilometres of bicycle lanes on the island in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the use of alternative transportation. But while those lanes are open to cyclists and inline skaters, they are closed to skateboarders, leaving many frustrated by the city's refusal to see skateboarding as a legitimate means of transportation.

 

"It's ecological, and you can take public transit with it, which you can't with your bike," said Alex Jarry, 31, manager of the Underworld skateboard shop on Ste. Catherine St. E., near Sanguinet St.

 

He travels to and from work daily on his skateboard, and says concerns about the safety of boarding in the street are overblown.

 

"People who skate in the street, they control their board," he said. "If you don't feel confident to ride in the traffic, you don't do it."

 

Naylor said he would rather try his luck in the street than compete for space on the sidewalk, as some less experienced skateboarders do.

 

The issue made national headlines recently after Fredericton resident Lee Breen, 25, spent a night in jail for refusing to pay a $100 fine for skateboarding on city roads.

 

Naylor and his friends Alex Potter, 19, and Ryan Baird, 18, ride their boards everywhere - and pay the price. All three have been fined for skateboarding on public property, including streets, sidewalks and parks.

 

"Everybody I know, they've got fined for skateboarding," Jarry said. "It's legal to sell skateboards and illegal to practise it."

 

That's not the case, Touchette said: "It's not illegal. You have parks and other places where you can use them for sport."

 

Skateboarders can hone their skills legally at more than 30 outdoor parks across the city. But commuters who would rather skateboard than drive a car do so at their own risk - physically and financially.

 

"For transportation, you cannot use a skateboard to move from place to place in the streets of Montreal," Touchette said.

 

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http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=7d7951ab-8d48-4b4c-bafa-3fa2843eac88

 

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