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In an ongoing review process, the City of Peterborough held a public consultation at the Peterborough Public Library on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 about proposed revisions to municipal codes and bylaws concerning active transportation. There was a public consultation in November and revisions were made to the recommended changes based on that process. You can fill out the active transportation survey on the City of Peterborough’s website until February 15 as part of the second public consultation session. After the public consultation period is over, a report will be prepared for Council.

The push for the review came from “longboarders” last winter, according to the City of Peterborough, who wanted to ride on the road and not be relegated to the trails only. There is also a need to include the relatively new mode of transport, e-bikes, into the bylaws. “Some administrative aspects of the by-laws are outdated” and need to be updated as well.

During the first public consultation session, 196 people were surveyed and 24 people signed in at the public meeting. GreenUP, B!KE, and the Peterborough County-City Health Unit wrote letters of suggestion, as well. The City said, “A wide range of age groups responded to the survey. 86 percent describe themselves as pedestrians, 77 percent as cyclists, 76 percent as drivers, 30 percent as longboarders/skateboarders, 9 percent as an in-line skaters/rollerbladers and 5 percent as e-bikers.” The survey period is not over yet for the second public consult, but the meeting was barely attended. About seven people were there who were not involved in the presentation somehow.

The majority (79 percent) of cyclists surveyed were in favour of removing the legal obligation of having a bike licence (represented by Municipal Code Chapter 729). Instead, bike licences will be optional and a recommended safeguard against theft.

Proposed changes to Traffic By-Law 91-71 include a change to section 9, which forbids skaters and rollerbladers from being on the road or sidewalk. The change would allow skaters and rollerbladers to ride on roads (under 50 kilometres per hour) and sidewalks outside of the downtown core. It would also require lights or reflective clothing between dusk and dawn, as well as helmets for riders under 18.

Section 15.1 bans sidewalk cycling and does not mention e-bikes. The change would include e-bikes and let cyclists use sections of the sidewalk where there is no bike lane available. It would also stipulate that wheeled users yield to pedestrians and audibly signal an intention to pass. Also, instead of listing all of the bike lanes, the revised bylaw would just make reference to signage for available bike lanes.

One of the most important changes would be a definition of e-bikes, in-line skating, and skateboarding. In the previous public consultation session, it was recommended that representatives come in to define what each of these are for the public. In response to this, Josh Johnson of Thin City Longboards spoke at the public consultation meeting at the end of January.

Johnson has owned the downtown skate shop for a couple of years now and has had his toes on the nose and his “ear to the ground” about this issue for some time. He noted the influx of skate culture in the Kawarthas in the 1990s. Now defunct Lindsay/Peterborough skate shop, Breez, was the first site of a skate scene in the area and was pivotal in getting the skatepark on Monaghan built. This was a proposed ‘solution’ to the skateboarding ‘problem.’

Josh described the current wave of skaters turning to a more classic style of skateboard, the longboard, as “a completely different breed” and a “reasonable mode of transportation.” He would like to see longboarding treated like a bicycle when it comes to regulation because longboards are “close to a bicycle, as far as road use is concerned.”

While he attempted to ally longboarding with cycling and affirming that it was not “trick skateboarding,” he also acknowledged that “there is too much diversity in the sport” to create specific laws for “trick boards.” Many longboards are actually quite short and wide. Many longboards have hard wheels and short trucks. These are all things associated with trick skateboards. He quoted longboards as achieving speeds of about 20-30 kilometres per hour, self propelled. At sanctioned International Gravity Sports Association (IGSA) races, though, longboarders can reach speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour.

While the perception that there are certain kinds of skateboards that are better suited for legal road activity may be grey, it is clear that there are certain skaters who are willing to abide by whatever laws that will allow them to share the road. There is a $4,000 budget for education and training of safe cycling and hopefully this will grow to be safe riding in general.

If you are interested in participating in this unique form of direct democracy, be sure to fill out the active transportation survey on the City of Peterborough website .