Friday, May 16, 2008

Canadian Crime Produces Question Of The Day

Lee Breen is behind bars in New Brunswick for failing to pay a fine because he was riding a skateboard in the provincial capital.

He didn't pay the fine, issued in 2007, and a judge recently raised the amount to $100, or gave Breen the option of spending five days in jail.

Breen chose jail.

"I won't pay because I believe I'm following the Fredericton Green Matters campaign in finding alternative transportation with my skateboard," he said yesterday at a rally in support of him at city hall.

"If I pay the fine, I would be admitting I was doing something wrong."

I must admit, I have some mixed feelings about this story. I mean, there are far more serious crimes happening in Canada that need to be addressed. This is a serious waste of time and resources.

On the other hand, with liberty comes abuse. We've all had an experience - be it a terrible neighbour who keeps us awake at night or someone in the neighbourhood who piles the junkers all over their lawn, there isn't one of us who hasn't been annoyed by behaviour that can sometimes get out of control.

I personally have a bit of an issue with bicycles. I know they're green. I know they're exercise. I've also been hit by a car while riding one, as a child, and I wasn't breaking any laws or doing anything reckless. But it drives me nuts when I have to go downtown Calgary and bike couriers are whipping all over the place, because they don't follow the rules of the road. It also drives me nuts that bicyclists act like cars one minute and run up on sidewalks or use crosswalks the next.

And, to make matters worse, I was hit by a bicyclist when I was running up a hill on a walking path. I was knocked unconscious.

Part of me wants tougher laws to govern how bicyclists use roads and sidewalks. Part of me wants a licensing system, because they operate on the roads but have no legal liability that can easily be applied in an incident, and they should, because there are bicyclists who are at fault in accidents.

But really, want I really want is infrastructure so that people can ride bicycles safely, walk safely and drive safely. It's when you put them all together and the rules change from one mode of transportation to another that you have problems.

Skateboarders are often looked down on. Unfortunately, the few who abuse the activity and don't show courtesy for others give all a bad name. The reality is, I've seen businessmen using motorized scooters, so why not skateboards?

Accidents can and do happen on bicyles and in cars, and even when people are walking. Therefore, I'm left wondering if this is discrimination. I can understand a rule about toboggans - after all, they can easily get out of control and few have brakes.

Consider me on the fence, leaning toward the side of supporting Mr. Breen. I do think putting him in jail is ridiculous. Couldn't he have been ordered to do community service instead? What do you guys think? Was the judge right, or do you think Mr. Breen is fighting the good fight?


John McFetridge said...

I think with gas at a buck thirty a litre this is a problem that will take care of itself - bikes will be the only affordable transportation.

Seriously, we're going through a transition stage and it's going to be tough. It's very tough on places that only became cities since the arrivial of the car. It's tough to retrofit them for proper bike lanes and public transit.

It also get quite emotional as people have such a tough time with change.

I think the skateboarder made the right choice. Go to jail and bring the issue to the media. Get people talking about it (plus, you know, five days would be a vacation for me right now, I'd take it).

I didn't read the article so I don't know how he was behaving on his skateboard, but part of the problem is trying to enforce across-the-board rules in all situations instead of specifically for each individual - was he reckless and dangerous, or are all skateboards banned because they MIGHT cause accidents?

Chris said...

I was a bit of a skate-punk growing up (at least until I lost a day after a less-than-graceful attempt at a wallride), so maybe I'm biased, but it seems to me jail is kinda harsh for merely riding a skateboard. I think that as long as he was respecting others while doing it, the fine/jail time seems wildly excessive.

Those on bikes who fail to obey traffic signals and rules of the road drive me batty, too. Apparently, "Share the road!" only cuts one way. But I think ultimately, you're right; the proper infrastructure and rule of law, there's room enough for many a bike, car, skateboard, rickshaw, or emu (talk about "alternative"!)

Chafrr said...

Breen knew he would get the standard 5 days in jail for not paying the fine. Same goes for parking tickets. Fredericton has a large skateboarding community and many of us use our skate / longboards to travel around safely. It would be great if the city granted the right for skateboarders to use the roads as bikers do as long as they follow the rules of the road and wore a helmet. Take a look at my blog if you want more info on the incident.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey John, my understanding is it's a rule against skateboards because they might cause accidents, not just applied when someone is reckless.

Chris, I'm with you - the rules have to go both ways.

Chaffr, thanks for stopping by and clarifying that. And I completely agree - if skateboarders wear helmets (as Mr. Breen was) and obey the rules of the road, they should be allowed to use the roads too.

John McFetridge said...

well, if we're going to start banning things because they might cause accidents, how are we going to keep cars on the road?

Anonymous said...

Hey Sandra! You've been tagged. Meme's over on my blog.

RAC said...

I was raised with the idea that Civil Disobedience is a basic right when you feel the law is unjust. There should be a huge protest by all the skateboard-brats down at the jail the whole time, for five days. As for the judge, I have a few questions:

Why does public intoxication only get you a one night's stay in in the hoosgow, while skateboarding gets you five?

What if you drink and skate?

Do rollerblades count as two vehicles?

Have you ever seen Footloose?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ha John!

seanachi, thanks for letting me know! I'm working on it...

RAC, if you drink and skate, wouldn't you get six days? Lol. Great questions. I wonder if you can talk on a cell phone while riding a bike?

And who hasn't seen Footloose?

Jack Ruttan said...

In Montreal, I see people using skateboards as a legitimate form of transportation. The other day, there was a guy rolling with a big bag of groceries on his board. They shouldn't be outlawed, not matter what the government and the rich think.