Alberta emergency doc warns cities are too dangerous for young skateboarders
A local safety advocate says Canadian cities are too dangerous for kids after a 13-year-old Calgary longboarder died last week. University of Alberta professor Dr. Louis Francescutti, an emergency physician and president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, says tragedies like Duncan McRae’s death could be prevented with more kid-friendly engineering. McRae was travelling down a back alley on his longboard in Calgary Tuesday when he lost control and fell into a cable fence. He died from his injuries. “If kids are running into structures that really serve no purpose, then that’s part of the engineering solution to reducing the risk … This really shouldn’t be happening when a kid is trying to pass the time and play,” Francescutti said. “Ask yourself, did you need a cable fence, or did you maybe just need a hedge?”
Francescutti says kids should be consulted about civic design matters when it comes to recreational spaces. He points to the UNICEF Injury World Report, which shows Canada’s rate of preventable childhood injuries and deaths is higher than most other industrialized nations. Unintentional injury is far and away the leading cause of death for Canadians aged one to 14. Francescutti says child safety is taken more seriously in countries like Sweden, where the childhood injury rate is considerably lower. “The real problem is, why does Canada have such high injury rates in comparison to other places in the world? The answer quite frankly is because we don’t care,” he said. Veteran boarders in Edmonton, meanwhile, are calling the death a freak accident. Longboarder Tim Mercer, who co-organized Edmonton’s ROGUE 20km longboard race in August, notes McRae was playing it smart by wearing his helmet, knee pads, and slide gloves. People rarely sustain serious injuries riding longboards because they are built more for travelling, he says, whereas skateboards are more geared for doing tricks. “That’s one of those unfortunate injuries that could happen at any time to anyone doing anything,” Mercer said. Warren Currie with Easy Rider skate shop urges parents to get more involved in their kids’ activities to ensure their safety.
“Get involved, learn about it. Get out and skateboard yourself,” said Currie, who has been riding since 1971 and is the father of two skateboarding teens. “It’s the same thing as a parent when the kid turns 14 and gets his learner’s licence, the parents will teach the kid how to drive a car or hire somebody to do it.” Currie said this is especially important with the popularity growth of longboards, which travel faster downhill than skateboards. He said the vibe in his store has been one of “sorrow and sadness” since McRae’s death, but he maintains skateboarding and longboarding are safe activities and does not blame unsafe city planning for the accident.