Skateboarders push back against proposed helmet bylaw

Some skateboarders in Saint John are upset with a proposed bylaw that would make wearing skateboarding helmets mandatory.

Josh's Law expected to receive 3rd reading at the end of the month

Some skateboarders in Saint John are upset with a proposed bylaw that would make wearing skateboarding helmets mandatory.

City council is one step away from passing the new bylaw, which requires any person riding a skateboard to wear a helmet within designated areas, including the Station 1 skate park, and Harbour Passage.

Josh's Law is named in support of Josh Dillon, 18, who suffered serious head injuries after falling from his skateboard last year.

Scott Childs, a skateboarder from Saint John, has written to city council and lodged a petition against the bylaw that could see violators fined up to $500.

"No skateboarder here at the park has ever suffered a head injury," said Childs. "A lot of what we're doing is very close to the ground. Skateboarders practice tricks and we practice falling … So we're very used to what we're doing here."

Childs set up a Facebook group opposing Josh's Law, which has received over 300 likes.

"I wouldn't be opposed to [making helmets mandatory for skateboarders] under 16 years old, because a lot of people starting out in skateboarding do fall a lot more than us experienced people," he said.

"I know exactly what I’m doing, I have good control over my skateboard, it’s like almost with experience everything starts to slow down a little bit, and you have a little more control and knowledge about what you’re doing as you’re going there."

Mixed reaction among skateboarders

There is support for skateboarding helmets in the city, and it gained traction in July after the death of a Saint John man on a skateboard.

Jason McKinnon, 31, died following a crash on July 12 at Fundy National Park. He hit his head falling off his skateboard, and was not wearing a helmet.

Jason MacLean, a member of the Fundy Skate Park Association and friend of McKinnon's, said it's time to change the culture to make wearing helmets mandatory.

But others at the Station 1 skate park, such as Josh Bennett, say they won't support such a move.

"I'd probably go somewhere else to be honest," said Bennett.

Alternative sports helmets are designed to protect the back of the head, and are built to withstand continuous impact.

Coun. Greg Norton proposed the helmet bylaw, which already received first and second readings. He said the aim of Josh's Law is to save lives.

"We're saving brains, and by extension we're saving lives," said Norton. "It's not to infringe on personal freedoms or choices or rights. It's a preventative measure."

The bylaw still needs to pass third reading before it becomes a law. That is expected to happen at the end of August.