To the editor:
Banning skateboarding on all city streets is impractical. The reckless actions of a few skaters should not mean that all skaters be banned from city streets. Portland’s City Ordinance 20.12.205 is an example of a safe alternative, allowing skaters and motorists to share the streets.
Passed in 2001, the ordinance classifies skateboards and longboards as transportation vehicles, same as bicycles. Though skateboarding is legal on most Portland streets, skaters by no means have free rein. Among other safety precautions, boarders are legally required to yield to pedestrians and follow the rules of the road, which means stopping at stop signs and giving right of way.
Like many activities, skateboarding can be dangerous. Car crash deaths in 2012: 33,561 (NHTSA). Annual deaths from alcohol: 88,000, and tobacco 480,000 (CDC). Bicyclists killed in 2012: 726 (NHTSA). These things are legal, yet skateboarding on The Dalles streets isn’t, even though in 2012 only 30 skateboarders lost their lives nationwide, according to the skateboarding fatality report.
It was said that boarders were going “so fast drivers can’t see them.” I seriously doubt that. Boarders don’t go any faster than cyclists or cars. Going downhill while lying on a board is dangerous on city streets and shouldn’t be tolerated, but an upright boarder is just as visible as a cyclist. Anybody who cannot see an upright boarder in broad daylight shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car. Such an oblivious motorist poses more of a threat to public safety than any skateboarder. Skating on the sidewalk is not a safe alternative either. Sidewalks are an obstacle course of bumps and cracks for someone traveling on 4 tiny wheels, and passing within inches of pedestrians isn’t safe for anyone involved.
Skateboarding and longboarding are often considered the same, but they are two different things. The Dalles skate park is irrelevant to longboarding. Longboards are not made for ramps, jumping, or grinding, they are designed to go distances. The skate park is about as useful to a longboarder as Mill Creek is to a white water kayaker. Just like bicycles, longboards are a means of transportation as well as recreation.
The Dalles should adopt an ordinance similar to Portland’s. Boarders of all ages should be informed of the potential dangers and encouraged to skate safely and with respect to all users of city streets.