City council and staff issued several apologies for last week’s ‘no’ sign debacle at their Sept. 11 city council meeting, acknowledging mistakes were made.
However, the signs will stay until they eventually fade because council believes trying to remove them will not work and will create an eyesore.
“It is not our role to supervise staff,” said mayor David Raven in his address to council. He alluded to an “interpretation” and “communication” issue between council and staff, leading ultimately to the signs.
“The message is one of public safety,” Raven said. “Council are responsible for the safety of the public.” He said if someone was injured by a bike, skateboard or an off-leash dog, the city and its taxpayers would legally liable.
“I’m hoping that the controversy will blow over and the signs [will] rub off,” Raven said, adding the PR black eye detracted from council’s good work.
City planning director John Guenther also apologized, citing communication issues. “The goal in my mind was to do something small in a minor way,” he said, adding the signs “grew into something way beyond.”
Part of the idea behind the signage is to enable citizens to point out the rules to scofflaws, Guenther said, adding he believed this was better than an enforcement-heavy approach.
Coun. Phil Welock, who was originally elected on a law-and-order platform, said there had been “talk” of vigilantism to deal with sidewalk scofflaws. “We need some enforcement; it’s done,” Welock said.
Coun. Gary Starling felt attempts to remove the signs wouldn’t be worth it. “I think time will take care of that,” he said, adding, “we can’t fix these problems with signage.”
Have there been any injuries due to downtown sidewalk skateboarding, cycling or dog bites, I asked. Councillors and staff couldn’t cite an incident, but said they’d heard of near misses. They didn’t have any statistics or numbers to quantify the issue. There hasn’t been litigation resulting from an injury.
After the meeting, Coun. Linda Nixon shared her experiences as a gerontological nurse, including her time working to rehab elderly patients injured in falls or other mishaps.
She contrasted what you see on downtown sidewalks (longboards, BMXes, cruisers and bar bikes) with what you don’t — elderly residents pushing strollers or walking with the assistance of canes.
She said elderly residents heading downtown in other B.C. small-towns, but wondered if ours had become too inhospitable to those worried about a physical encounter with skateboarders, sidewalk cyclists or off-leash dogs.