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.


  1. Skaters who do stupid stuff on the street ought to get the same treatment as motorcyclists who do stupid stuff on the street -- a careless and reckless citation and (often) a trip to jail. You don't do stunts on a motorcycle on the street. Not anywhere near a cop, anyhow.

    But for the notion of banning skateboards altogether... err, no. No more so than motorcycles should be banned because of a few idiots doing stupid things. Or even if it were more than a few idiots.

    - Badtux the Motorcyclin' Penguin

  2. ...they are a "legitimate, pollution-free form of transportation."

    We are doomed if people have come to this conclusion.

    Skaters make nice speed bumps!

  3. FWIW, I live a litte over a mile from the light rail station, and work is a little over a mile and a half from the other end of the light rail line. The trains are always packed during peak commute hours. I can fit a skateboard onto the train with me. I can't fit a bicycle onto the train with me, not even one of those cool folding bikes -- it's literally standing room only. It takes this penguin 20 minutes to waddle a mile, less than half that to push myself on wheels. So -- I can make my trip 50 minutes longer, which means I'll be commuting for close to 3 hours a day (and that is a helluva lot of life burned up standing in a train), or ... ???

    BTW, if I chose to commute that way, it would be in the bike lane, not in traffic. Penguins ain't THAT stupid! At the moment I'm choosing to commute via motorcycle most of the time rather than via overpacked train, but in the future... (shrug). Motorcycle is a helluva lot more dangerous than a sedate skateboard trip!

    -- Badtux the Transportation Penguin

  4. Badtux is 100% correct, a full ban isn't really warranted. If I gave that impression, I'm sorry. Certainly, the folks who use boards for transportation -- like my friend the penguin -- have as much right to use public thoroughfares as anyone else. It's the idiots like those pictured, the ones who screw around, that make life miserable for the (probably) 95% of skateboarders who try to do the right thing.

    And FS5, they do make good speed bumps, but the blood would kinda mess up the paint job, wouldn't it? Or do you cover the front of your car with Saran Wrap?