January 18, 2001
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Please accept my apology for not attending your court on Friday, December 8th, as I recalled the date incorrectly, believing the trial to be held on the following Friday, the 15th.
The charge against me is 174 (1), which reads: Where sidewalks are provided it is unlawful for any pedestrian to travel along or upon an adjacent roadway.
The Gage dictionary defines a "pedestrian" as a person who is "walking." It is absurd that a person could be fined $84 for walking on the road, but that was not my situation. On the evening of October 12, when officer Buck stopped me, I was traveling by skateboard, which is a "vehicle," the dictionary verifies: "A carriage, cart, wagon, bicycle, automobile, sled, or any other conveyance used on land." The skateboard I used that evening, and regularly use for transportation, is five feet long, specially designed for making precise, controlled turns on smooth roadways-- not sidewalks. It is not a skateboard for practicing tricks in a parking lot.
This summer, before the incident with officer Buck, I was stopped twice by police for using the skateboard for transportation, though it be harmless, unlike cars that pollute the air we breathe and can become murderous if the driver is not completely aware and responsive. I asked the police, "Why do you have a problem with me using a skateboard?"
The police responded by saying that they didn’t make the rules, and if I didn’t like them, it was my responsibility to change them.
So, I took their advice, and wrote this letter to city council:
Wednesday, July 25th
8pm. My name is MAX. I am also known as Cory Richardson. On the corner of Sand Cove Road and Fishermen’s Lane, I am standing at the end of my driveway, with one foot on a five foot long skateboard-- a gift received in San Diego. It may be the only one in the city. Skateboarding has been my preferred mode of transportation in the city since the age of ten. For me, a skateboard is like an extended limb. I am cursing up the hill to Seawood School as I write this. Pushing a few times, then riding and writing. I stay on the far right shoulder. A couple cars passed on my left-- no problem. The street is plenty wide enough.
"What do you think about me riding this skateboard on the street?" I just asked a pedestrian, Diane, 43.
"If you don’t take up the whole street… it doesn’t bother me. On Fundy Drive, kids were skateboarding-- taking up the whole road and they wouldn’t move. They had a ramp and everything. A lot of people got annoyed. But, no, if they stay to the side of the road, I don’t mind."
Now for Blurry street, which is steep, so I’ll detour the on Danel’s Drive to start off. I stopped at the stop sign, saw no cars at the top of the hill, now I’m gliding down, very comfortable, wearing a fat smile. You cannot get this feeling in a car. It’s very liberating. I am free. People in oncoming cars look jealous. Now I’m crossing the highway over-pass, turning right at the intersection, and into the superstore parking lot.
8:34pm. I am line to pick up prints—pictures of rock climbing in Welsford and kayaking around the Irving Nature Park. Life is full of risks and danger—that is what makes it interesting. It is often said, "Life is not fair." Another way to look at it—"There are no rules."
8:36pm. I’m hiking up the hill, carrying the board toward Simms Corner. Now I’m going with the traffic. I can move fast. No cars in front or back, I’m having fun, carving-- making smooth wide turns. Traffic is held-up on the bridge, but I’m cruising through.
Douglas Avenue is a wide street perfect for this with smooth pavement. I enjoy living in Saint John. It’s beautiful; peaceful; but, the air stinks, because of the oil refinery and cars that burn it’s toxic mix of mother nature’s blood. It’s a fact that burning fossil fuels is creating a "green house effect", increasing Earth’s temperature. Sun Screen didn’t exist when my father was a kid, and now we are recommended not to be in the sun without it. If we don’t change the way we currently live, the sun is going to fry us. Bicycles, scooters, roller blades, and skateboards are healthy forms of transportation for everyone. The rider gets exercise and other life forms aren’t forced to breath the pollutants that most motorized vehicles create.
We are sitting on the edge of the world’s largest power generator, capable of creating clean tidal energy everyday of the year. Solar power vehicles and many forms of human powered transportation will be common in the near future. Open to change, Saint John can be a city that lives in harmony with nature. I will help make it so, because I plan to live here a long time.
8:48pm. I am now riding down St. Patrick street. On the bridge, a cop car passed in the opposite direction, but there was no reaction. Recently, I was harassed twice by police for riding this skateboard-- here uptown, and near home on the West side, and that is why I am writing this. Both officers didn’t think my form of travel was a problem, but said they "don’t make the rules, and if you don’t like ‘em… you should change ‘em."
8:55pm. "Good evening, Mr. Grannan." I greeted the owner of Streamers restaurant, standing at the door.
"What kinda skateboard is that?!" He smiled, with wide, curious eyes.
"It’s made for riding on the street—not doing tricks, like the smaller ones." I answered.
"Neat!" he nodded. "looks fun."
July 27th. 4pm. I am now at home, typing this journal for Monday night’s common council meeting, and to do that, I gotta get it to city hall in 45 minutes. I’ll take the skate. It’s cool with Mr. Grannan… and I think you’d like it too. If you have any problem with this… please let me know.
Respect and tolerance—not laws, create peace in a community.
The letter was read by council and I received no negative response. My problems with police harassment for skateboarding were history as far as I was concerned. When officer Buck stopped me, as I was traveling cautiously and responsibly on an empty roadway(Prince Edward St.), being of no harm. I explained that I had done my civic duty, and that if he had a problem, he needed to take it up with council. He didn’t like me challenging his authority, so, right then, he decided I was a trouble maker in need of a back ground check. He wasn’t going to find anything. I had never been in a court room in my life. Waiting for me on the other side of the street, a friend, with her child in a stroller, was in a hurry to get home to put the kid to bed. I said to the officer, "Unless you have a reason for holding me here, I gotta go." He thought for a moment, then said, "You have violated 174 (1) of the motor vehicle act."
"That is just a number!" I laughed in disbelief. "What does it mean? What is the problem?"
"You broke the law: traveling upon a roadway were a sidewalk is provided."
"You are the only person creating trouble here. I don’t have money to pay this $84 nasty joke. This isn’t justice; it is blatant abuse of authority."
Officer Buck didn’t give me the ticket at that time, but stated he would deliver it to my home.
When Mr. Buck came to visit, I offered to show him the letter I wrote to city council. He wouldn’t read it, saying I could bring it to court, "But, it won’t do you any good anyway."
Judge Jeffries, please pardon this unjust punishment, and inform me of what must be done to change(if there is anything to change) that which prevents the lawful use of a skateboard for transportation on public roadways.
I was given another court date, but to attend, I was forced to cancel a slide show at Woodlawn School for "youth at risk."
The cop, Mr. Buck, didn't show, cuz he couldn't bring in his witness. I insisted we get it over with, but the judge said it was only fair to set another court date, because I was given that privilege. "Remember..." the judge assured me, "The province has to prove you are guilty. Until then, you are innocent."
The following week, back in court, with Mr. Buck's wife as witness, Mr. Titus, the province's lawyer, began by stating "This case is against a pedestrian... and Mr. Richardson was on a skateboard-- used as a vehicle."
"Mr. Richardson, the Province has dropped it's charge," said the judge. "You are free to go."