University of Saskatchewan alumnus Mike Nemeth is on a mission. He launched an online petition in August to reform Saskatoon bylaws and, by doing so, to legalize longboarding in Saskatoon.
The by-law that prohibits longboarders from accessing the Broadway, River Landing, Downtown and Riversdale areas is the main target of the petition. It states that “a person shall not skateboard on a street or side-walk or other public place within the restricted areas,” and whoever disobeys is subject to a $15 ticket.Â
According to Nemeth’s petition, longboarders feel they should be exempt from this by-law, as they have no interest in damaging public property or harming pedestrians.Â The petition, which has over 800 signatures, argues that longboarding during the summer months could reduce traffic downtown.Â Â Â Â
Nemeth, who has been longboarding for three years, wants the ban removed as it would be “a way to alleviate congestion.” He believes that he has the support of at least three city counsellors and while negotiations are up in the air, community support has been immense.Â
The online petition was created at the beginning of August and is already less than two hundred signatures away from its goal of 1,000. Although the petition focuses on longboarding, it also includes skateboarders, stating that “regular skateboarding is also a form of active, carbon-free transportation and should not be discouraged by restrictions.”
Nemeth also argues that “longboards and skateboards should not face any greater restriction than rollerblading or rollerskating. Currently, rollerblading and rollerskating do not face these restrictions.” Â Â Â Â
“We wanted to include skateboarders [in the petition]. Essentially, what should happen is for the by-law to restrict the tricks.”
Jonathon Storey, co-owner of Escape Sports, which has sold longboards for the past five years, feels that “a lot of these people [the longboarders] are young and want to save money because they don’t have cars; a $15 ticket is a lot to them.”Â
He also believes that longboarding is not a fad. Escape Sports has been selling longboards for five of the six years they have been operating, and according to Storey, sales have nearly doubled every year.
“The main distinction between longboarding and skateboarding is that longboarders are trying to get somewhere. Longboarders behave differently and are more predictable.Â The by-law should be on stunting.”Â
During the past few weeks there has been an increase in the area that prohibits longboarding.Â The area now includes the farmer’s market area downtown, which Escape Sports is located directly across from. This new expansion is part of the Riversdale Business Improvement District, which is devoted to rejuvenating the area around 20th Street.
“Basically what’s happened is they expanded the area to include avenues A, B and C by the farmer’s market,” said Jamison Gillert of transportation management for City of Saskatoon.
“Certain skateboarders are damaging city property. Also, the by-law was put in place to improve the safety of the pedestrian.Â We have a high volume of pedestrians in the downtown area.”
Currently, Gillert is involved in writing a report that is reviewing the ban on longboarding.Â The report will likely be done by this fall, and then discussed by city counsel by the end of the year. If the report gets a positive review, then the by-law could be amended.
Meanwhile, the longboarders of Saskatoon will have to stay patient.
To learn more about the campaign to reform the Traffic Bylaw see the Facebook group.