Monday, May 19, 2008

Skateboard Ban Contemplated

Today's Portland (ME) Press-Herald carries a front-page story about skateboarders on city streets. Some residents feel the skateboards are a traffic menace, others feel they are a "legitimate, pollution-free form of transportation."

Portland police have started ticketing skateboarders who violate traffic laws in the Old Port and Arts District after business owners complained that a recent ordinance change turned the downtown area into a dangerous playground. [...] The council acted to clarify a newer ordinance that says skateboarders, like bicyclists, can ride on city streets as long as they follow traffic laws.

This is fine and dandy, as long as they follow traffic laws.

Notice how these guys are crouched over. If you were driving a car down a busy city street, would you be able to see them before you struck them? Also, notice the complete lack of common-sense safety equipment, like helmets and elbow and knee pads.

I wouldn't consider that technique to be safe, never mind lawful.

Skateboarders say they have as much right to ride the streets of Maine's largest city as any car, motorcycle or bicycle.

Of course, we all know bicyclists are always 100% law-abiding, right? No one has ever seen a bicyclist zip from the right shoulder to a left-turn lane without looking, right? Bicyclists scare the heck out of me when I see them on public roads, because you never know what they're going to do.

The center of the conflict is a short, steep stretch of Exchange Street, between Middle and Fore streets, that's lined with trendy shops and restaurants. It's in the heart of the Old Port, near Post Office and Tommy's parks, where teenagers and twentysomethings come to hang out and ride.

"Exchange Street is a stage for them," Verner said. "Some of them are incredibly talented athletes."

Most use wider, longer skateboards known as longboards, which are designed for racing and transportation. Shortboards are more commonly used in skate parks. The riders start at the top of the hill, at Exchange and Middle streets, and streak down the single-lane, one-way street, sometimes dodging vehicles and pedestrians along the way.

This guy is just looking to get squished. There's no way the driver of the UPS truck could see him in time, especially if the boarder is dodging vehicles. If he wipes out, he's dead.

Some even blow by the stop sign at Fore Street.

Some skateboarders engage in "sliding." They crouch down and press gloved hands on the pavement to control their movements. The fingertips and palms of the gloves are padded with disks they cut from plastic cutting boards.
Great. Crazy skateboarders, ducking below any possible line of sight, screaming down a steep hill on a city street, then blowing the stop sign at a major intersection.

These are the same "athletes" who ride the handrails at office buildings, jump the stairs at shopping malls, and create pure hell for business owners with "attractive" properties.

And when these idiots get hurt. what do they do?

They sue the property owners for not protecting the boarders from their own stupidity.

If I were on the Portland city council, I would enact an ordinance along the lines of "if you want to use a skateboard for transportation, fine. You must stand upright while doing so. You must also wear protective equipment, including a helmet and elbow and knee pads, since we don't want to get stuck with your hospital bills when you wipe out. If you are "sliding" or otherwise crouched down, you get a hefty fine. You also forfeit your right to sue if you are injured while violating this ordinance."

Equal rights require equal responsibility. If you want to claim the right to use a city street for transportation, go ahead. But a city street isn't a playground, not even for 20-somethings (like the bozos pictured above). You want to show off your skills, go to the playground, and leave the roads and streets for those who take their responsibilities seriously.

Quote of the Day

"Never doubt the courage of the French, they are the ones who discovered snails are edible."

-- Doug Larson, Charlotte (NC) Observer

That is assuming, of course, that snails are, in fact, edible.

"Family-Values" Republican Busted - Part 56,840

Vito Fossella is the Republican Congressman from New York City's Staten Island. As is the case with most "family values" Republicans, Fossella supported the Marriage Protection Amendment (which allows discrimination against gays; personally, I go along with Lenny Briscoe: "Of course gays should marry, why shouldn't they be miserable like the rest of us?"). He also supports posting the Ten Commandments (including the one that condemns adultery).

And like so many other "family values" Republicans, Fossella got busted. In Don Vito's case, he got bagged for drunk driving down in Virginia. He blew twice the legal limit. He told cops he was going to visit his daughter.

One small problem:

The daughter wasn't one of the three kids he had with his wife. This daughter was by his mistress. Oh, and he lied to his wife about his mistress.

Gotta LOVE them "family values" Republicans!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Much-Belated Update

First and foremost, the lovely yet talented Judy Hoffman* has a revised edition of her book Keeping Cool In The Hot Seat. If you ever have to deal with crisis communications -- even if you merely piss off your wife -- you need this book. It shows you how to get your message across without shooting yourself (or your organization) in the foot. Hint: "no comment" doesn't cut it.

Next, the lovely yet talented Mrs 618 and I are getting settled in up here in Northern New England. The missus claimed this was even more like "cow country" than where we were before. True, there are fewer people, but here we can get DSL. I asked about DSL out in Michigan, and the phone company laughed.

Our Lab, Emily, and one cat, Joey, made the trip successfully. Bailey, the "feral" cat who adopted us, apparently understood what a 26-foot UHaul means. He took off two days before we left, and didn't re-appear until the day after we arrived here. Our former neighbors spotted him in their barn, where he has apparently established a residence in the hayloft. They're feeding him, and -- if we go out to visit Mom-in-law -- we may try to grab him then. he does like the lady of the house more than he likes me, so it might work. At least he's okay.

Look for pix of our new world headquarters, coming soon over most of this same blog.

Political commentary, This Date in Fire History, and other popular features will also be returning soon.

*UPDATE (to the update): BadTux pointed out that the link wasn't working. It should be now. Of course, if Blogger still doesn't like me, it's