Failing to take action against irresponsible skateboarders could easily lead to others trying to imitate them, say the writers.

Cape Town - With road accidents at unacceptably high levels, with too many families mourning the loss of their loved ones each year because someone broke the law, and with most of us knowing someone whose life was irrevocably changed because someone disobeyed the rules of the road, it is a priority of this administration to use all of our available resources to make our roads safe. As part of our commitment to building a safe city for all our residents, we must do all we can to ensure that those who use our roads do so with care, and with the safety of other users in mind.

Part of changing our city’s legacy landscape is transforming our roads and public open spaces so they can be used and enjoyed by all residents, no matter what mode of transport they use. However, this requires a contract with residents that these spaces will be used legally and with consideration for one another.

As a city, we are committed to accommodating all types of road users, while ensuring that our roads are as safe as possible. To this end, anyone who displays a reckless disregard for the rules of the road should expect to be prosecuted.

The skateboarder and his friend who filmed him speeding down Kloof Nek Road last week knew they were breaking the rules of the road – the footage shows this was their intent. Their publicity stunt was a display of disrespect towards the public, and particularly skateboarders who obey the law.

Skateboarding at high speed down Kloof Nek Road in partial daylight with traffic approaching in the opposite direction is neither safe nor responsible. This was a reckless and illegal act, and the city is obliged to respond to it in terms of national legislation, particularly since it was so flagrantly disregarded. The law must take its course. We contend the skateboarder involved is guilty of reckless endangerment and the evidence will be added to the docket and handed to the National Prosecuting Authority. The NPA will decide whether to prosecute.

The bottom line is that this incident could easily have led to an accident – another road user could have panicked and veered out of the way, causing a collision. Or the skateboarder could have lost control and collided with a vehicle. Kloof Nek Road has a high accident rate and failing to take action against this skateboarder could easily lead to other skaters, who may be less proficient, trying to imitate him and falling victim to an accident. The city has an important duty to decrease the number of road deaths, and we are the only city in South Africa to do so every year, precisely because we have been uncompromising on road safety.

This incident is a great pity, because it flies in the face of engagement between the city and a range of stakeholders on how we can open our streets to all types of road users. Before this incident, the city set up a meeting with the National Skating Collective for later this month as part of our recognition of skateboarding as a form of non-motorised transport, and commitment to engaging with the skating fraternity in Cape Town and assisting them wherever possible to practise their sport legally and safely. This will not be the first meeting with the National Skating Collective – the city has engaged them on these issues before.

The city has already dedicated significant resources to developing its non-motorised transport system, which includes dedicated non-motorised lanes which are also used by skateboarders. This system seeks to connect communities and work, with a low impact on the environment through the use of public transport-oriented initiatives, walking, cycling, skateboarding, lift-clubbing, low-emission vehicles, promotion of healthy lifestyles and building/protecting urban transport systems that are fuel-efficient, inclusive and space-saving.

Furthermore, a lifting of the prohibition of bicycles, skateboards and rollerblades along the Sea Point Promenade has seen many residents taking to the promenade with their skateboards, enjoying a weekly social event. This is a logical extension of the city’s Share the Road campaign, which encourages all road users to be mindful of one another and share the roads courteously and safely.

The city is also working to assist in the development of the sport of skateboarding in Cape Town, and officials and councillors have held numerous meetings with the skateboarding fraternity to this end. The city will continue to develop skateboarding facilities across the city to promote the sport.

The city has built numerous parks where skateboarders can practise their tricks, including in Maitland, Belhar, Kleinvlei, Delft, Westridge (Mitchells Plain), Strandfontein, Edgemead, Hanover Park and Athlone. In addition, the city is developing a skate park on Mill Street, Gardens, for all skateboard users in the CBD – from beginners to experts. For this, the “dead space” under the bridge near the MyCiTi station will be used constructively, so that it benefits from passive surveillance as a deterrent for criminals. The park will serve the skateboarding community in the central city and complement the IRT activities and public space upgrades in the area. This is in addition to a range of private skate parks throughout the city.

The city has also been supportive of the worldwide Open Streets initiative which involves closing public streets to motor vehicles and encouraging people to take ownership of the street as a public space for any activity other than driving a car. In this way we replace vehicular traffic with pedestrian traffic and our streets become paved parks for walking, jogging, cycling, skating or any other physical activity. The city recently hosted a very successful Open Streets event in Grassy Park and we will work with the Open Streets group to see how we can make this a more permanent feature in Cape Town.

The fan walk, from the CBD to the Stadium, is a good example of the city’s accommodation of non-motorised transport users, with its wide pavements and paved spaces.

But the city will never make provision for downhill “bombing” at will. Anyone who would like to organise public extreme sports events, such as downhill skateboarding contests, is encouraged to approach the city for a permit. This means measures will be put in place to ensure it takes place in a safe and responsible manner.

* JP Smith and Brett Herron are on the mayoral committee, for safety and security, and transport, roads and stormwater respectively.

Cape Argus

* On Wednesday, Cape Town traffic enforcement said the City of Cape Town would not prosecute Decio Lourenco as they could not use a YouTube video as evidence.