'But it's not a skateboard' - Macleans.ca

‘But it’s not a skateboard’

Fans say it’s eco-friendly, cops say it’s risky. The fight over longboarding.

'But it's not a skateboard'

Photograph by Liam Richards

Bradley Charles, 21, was killing time one day last summer near the Saskatchewan River in downtown Saskatoon, riding his longboard up and down a gentle hill on a concrete path, when two police officers wrote him a $15 ticket for skateboarding in a prohibited zone. “But this isn’t a skateboard,” he protested. “It’s a longboard.” Unlike the similar-shaped skateboard that’s mainly used for airborne tricks, a longboard looks like a surfboard on wheels, stretching 90 to 150 cm, making it unable to ever leave the ground. They ticketed him anyway, citing a bylaw meant to keep skateboarders from scuffing up city property while doing tricks.

Now Charles, who says the longboard was his only mode of transportation at the time, is lobbying his local government to exclude the metre-long cousin of the skateboard from existing skateboard bylaws. He says he’d even support a law that requires helmets and speed limits, as long as he’s allowed to ride. But while the city asked for a staff report looking into legalizing longboards two years ago, no report has yet come forward, and in August, the council decided to extend the skateboard ban to an additional area of downtown.

Cities from Fredericton, N.B., to White Rock, B.C., are facing a growing number of petitions from longboarders like Charles, who argue that their boards are an eco-friendly mode of transportation and safer than regular skateboards: their length and bigger wheels make them more stable, and the greater distance between the front and back wheels means it’s impossible for the board to leave the ground.

All this also makes them appealing to people “in all walks of life,” according to Pat Allard, manager of Hogtown Extreme Sports in Toronto, where sales of longboards have roughly tripled in the past five years.

“I’ve sold them to people from age six all the way to 50.”

But the boards’ growing popularity has been coupled with more attention from police. In White Rock, police recently issued a press release saying they will ticket longboarders for riding on streets and sidewalks following the death of Glenna Evans, 27, in nearby North Vancouver in July. The art student was struck and killed by a van while longboarding down a mountain street at a high speed. Evans, whose blog posts included pictures of wide gashes on her knees from falls, was a competitor in “downhill” races—like the one at Mount Washington near Campbell River, B.C., in late August, where racers hit speeds over 100 km per hour.

White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson says longboards are a safety issue not only for children who try downhill stunts, but also for drivers and pedestrians. “We have a large demographic of seniors,” Ferguson adds. Some have told her they’ve been frightened by skateboarders on sidewalks or had near-misses when backing out of driveways. When she met with two dozen teenagers protesting enforcement of the skateboard law in August, she told them they should use the skate park in nearby Surrey, instead of city streets.

Ferguson’s comments reflect the very misconceptions about longboarders that Mike Nemeth, a 25-year-old engineer, is trying to fight. Nemeth is collecting signatures for a petition asking the city of Saskatoon to allow longboarding as a green mode of transportation. One misconception is that longboards are all owned by children, he says. Another is that longboarders can simply make use of skateboard parks; they can’t, he says, because they can’t do the kinds of tricks skate parks are designed for. Most importantly, he says, he, like many longboarders, has no interest in the kind of downhill longboarding that killed Glenna Evans. “What I do is just a leisurely sport, like a slow bike ride along a path kind of thing,” says Nemeth, who estimates he never goes faster than 20 km/h. “To compare what I do to downhill [longboarding] is like calling a toboggan a luge.”

Similarly, Ian MacDonald, 38, began circulating a petition this summer asking the city of Peterborough, Ont., to legalize longboarding—galvanized by a $65 ticket he received while riding to work. Boarding of any kind is illegal in all areas of the city, except for the lone skateboard park. “[The law] sends a message that alternative forms of vehicles are not acceptable,” he recently told the Peterborough Examiner. He’s already gathered 250 signatures.

Bradley Charles, who is helping Mike Nemeth with his petition, is hopeful that Saskatoon’s city council will be accommodating, so he can board to friends’ houses without having to deal with police. At least two councillors have already said they’re prepared to support changes to allow longboards for transportation, so long as city staff make that recommendation. “If people are running into pedestrians or damaging property, fine, ticket them,” says Charles. “But to just throw down a blanket rule and say, ‘You guys can’t have any fun here, or go from point A to point B, doesn’t make any sense.”


‘But it’s not a skateboard’

  1. I would say this is pretty balanced….longboarders of the world, unite and take over!

  2. Longboards are transportation …

  3. I've been hit by longboarders TONS of times…. luckily for me i was always in leathers, a full face helmet, and there were hay bales in the corners on the race courses!!!!

  4. LongBoarding is not a crime !
    I support safe skating, helmet use and have a skate hard constitution….
    Cant let a bike ride the streets and not a LongBoard, it just don't make no sense !
    Spread the stoke !

  5. Longboards are a type of skateboard with a longer wheelbase and larger, softer wheels."

  6. I was longboarding in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and a cop stopped me and told me to use the local skatepark instead of the streets.

    Okay, yeah, I'll use my LONGboard at the skatepark, and then I'll go buy a lion to keep as a pet, because lions are cats, and cats make good pets, right?

  7. just like pretentious longboarders,
    this guy should do some research into bylaws and skateboarding

    and bikes have brakes, i can stop much quicker than you and your f*cking torpedo.

    • I will take that challenge. Lets put it to the test! I think I can stop quicker on my longboard than a bike. Did you do any research?

      • Yeah, I second that. I can stop very quickly on my longboard.

        • I third that. Plus, i can probably keep a higher speed comfortably, and stop faster. Moron.

          • I FOURTH that bud who do you think you are we are longboaders we have the skill because we have benn doing it and learnd how to stop. The only reasn your rage ing is because you probly tried your self FAILD then never wanted to do it again. We can stop at great speeds . I rest my case.

  8. If it doesn't have brakes, it shouldn't be on city streets.

    • Just because there aren't brakes doesn't mean you are unable to stop. Granted braking at high speed is one of the hardest things to learn to do on a longboard or skateboard. A longboard can stop just as fast or faster than a bike.

  9. The last point is all that matters. The solution is simple. Use already existing laws to enforce unsafe practices. Speeding, damage to public property, riding on the sidewalks, failing to stop at stop signs etc. Longboarders are looking over their shoulders for cops now instead of watching the road.

  10. Considering some of the crazy cyclists I've had to avoid, I would argue longboarders are much more aware of road safety and other road users. As to how fast someone can stop (brakes vs no brakes), it really comes down how fast you're going and your ability to control your 'vehicle'. I think anyone who is using a form of transport which is better for the environment should be encouraged instead of discouraged. I would encourage Ian MacDonald et al to keep at it! :-)

  11. common misconception: you can't stop a skateboard.

    in fact, there are many ways to stop. they all take practice, but stopping is the second thing you learn when beginning to longboard (after starting). you don't longboard for long if you can't do it in control.

    usually its as simple as dragging a foot to slow down a bit and then just stepping off and picking up the board, which can be done at a run. after that, most of us know how to stop running…

  12. You refer to White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson, who said that longboards are a safety issue not only for those who use them but also for pedestrians. "We have a large demographic of seniors," said the mayor.

    While White Rock's teenaged longboarders mobilized and protested enforcement of the skateboard law, senior citizens feared, and continue to fear, longboarders' presence on the town's streets, many of which are steep.

    Late last month my 90-year-old mother, a White Rock resident, was crossing just such a steep street, at the crosswalk, when she was clipped on the heel by a runaway longboard. The impact was so violent that it threw her shoe across the street. She lost her balance, fell and broke her wrist. An operation, a general anesthetic and an overnight stay in the hospital later, she's in a cast with pins holding the fracture – a "savage break," the doctor called it – and will be for some weeks to come. She was very lucky not to break her pelvis or hit her head.

    Commenters argue above that they can stop their board faster than a cyclist can stop his bike. But obviously they can't always control their board. A runaway longboard is an unguided missile with enormous potential for damage, especially on a steep street. The teenager who was riding the one that hit my mother – a perfectly pleasant and polite young man, she said – substantiated the Mayor's concerns about safety in the streets.

    • I've never hit somebody, I'm sure most people haven't. To make such a claim based on a single incident is unfair and ridiculous.
      There's a car accident every…what? 30 seconds? Should we ban cars? Of course not. But we do have laws in place to help accidents not occur, and ticket those who don't obey the laws. But that is not to say that we should write laws for every possible incident, but we shouldn't write laws to outlaw such a sport. Vandalism and harm to others are not synonymous with skateboards.
      I'm sure you would support cycles, why not boards? We tell people they need to ride bikes in a controlled manner, but we don't tell them they can't ride at all.

  13. This guy is dumb.

    And I skate.

  14. Learn your rights and learn how to deal with cops. If you do that there isn't much they can do to stop you. As it is right now we are specifically exempt from the motor vehicle act and thus not subject to the speed limit and other rules of the road. The only thing that makes it illegal in certain places is local bylaws which if you know the right things to say don't really do anything…
    Common law transport rights state that we all have the right to travel via whatever means are available to us.

  15. Longboards can not be on a skate park becuase it would damage the board by many scratches its to long for it the middel of the board would be badly damaged even by going of one ramp. We have had encounters with Police officers and we are always kind to them and they seem to end up saying “yeh longboarding is cool its a fun thing to do but please dont do it on busy roads” we seem to get that reaction most of the time untill you get the hard officers bt even then we dont get tickets. When we longboard in groups we seem to get officers attention but when there is one lonsome longboarder or even skateboarder that get a ticket on a road that possibly barly had cars, that is not right. And there are many modes on how to stop on a longboard leeding to Foot stop or to coleman to shutdown slide or to even a Stand up slide i have seen and been on the action of need fast stop and yet it has never faild on me even in fast thinking when there is a car. Longboarding has taken people of call of duty, saints row, assassins creed, or all those games. Longboarding, because golf, basket ball and soccer only use one BALL

  16. they say its risky and peoples can diewhile riding at high speed , but peoples can die while riding cars, bikes, moped etc..
    Its not a reason to make it illegal.

  17. I can see why people are concerned about longboarders because in my opinion its pretty difficult to stop a long board while going decently fast. thats the difference between Long boards and bicycles, bicycles have breaks.