Open road beckons for skateboarders

A skateboarder performs at the Centre of Gravity festival in Kelowna in this file photo from 2016. City council on Monday passed a new bylaw allowing skateboarders to use all city streets.

Skateboarders can now legally use the streets of Kelowna.

In fact, they must, because riding on a sidewalk could net a skateboarder a $35 fine.

City council has approved changes to the traffic control bylaw aimed at promoting greater use of non-motorized forms of transportation.

“I think we do need a modernization of the bylaws, and this is a step in the right direction,” Mayor Colin Basran said at Monday’s meeting.

Some skateboard enthusiasts have long asked for the right to use city streets, Coun. Ryan Donn said.

“This is just a natural next step to follow through on what we’ve said, to move people around Kelowna not necessarily in cars,” Donn said.

Until now, skateboards could not legally be used in Kelowna on any roads, sidewalks, bike lanes or multi-purpose paths.

The change approved by council requires skateboarders to stay off sidewalks or face a $35 fine.

“The recommended bylaw changes allow skateboards to operate under much the same rules that govern bikes today,” active transportation co-ordinator Matt Worona wrote in an email.

Like cyclists, skateboarders and riders of kick scooters will use city streets “at their own risk,” Donn said.

Skateboarders are now supposed to use bike lanes where they exist. Where there are no bike lanes, they are to “be as near as practicable to the right side” of the road, the new bylaw states.

Drivers and skateboarders should now watch out for each other on city streets, Coun. Luke Stack said.

“If a skateboarder and a car have a disagreement, the skateboarder is going to lose,” Stack said.

He also said the city should mount a public relations campaign encouraging cyclists and other users of non-motorized transportation to wear helmets.

“I do see the usage of helmets going down,” Stack said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

A separate change also approved Monday by council allows children under 12 to ride their bikes on sidewalks.