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Skateboarders risk harm, violate law when street riding

The Dalles Police Officer Sean Lundry wants parents and grandparents to pass this message along to their kids and grandkids: skateboarding on the streets is illegal, and it’s illegal because it’s dangerous.

It’s that time of year, he said, when kids take to the streets on skateboards — and, in the last few years, long boards, or extended skateboards — and bomb down Kelly and Court streets, not wearing a helmet, and going so fast drivers can’t see them.

“I’ve seen kids actually laying down on their boards, [going at a] very, very fast speed, where a car isn’t going to see them,” he said. He almost hit just such a boarder in his personal vehicle at the corner of Washington and Seventh.

“We think it’s only a matter of time before something tragic happens and we really want to protect the kids that really may not be thinking about their mortality,” Lundry said.

“They’re not paying attention to the traffic around them and they’re expecting the traffic to yield to them and that’s not how it’s supposed to be,” Lundry said.

“I’m trying to reach out to parents and grandparents who may be sending their kids out to play, just to make them aware, if you’re going to be doing it, have fun, but be safe, don’t be in the roadways, and maybe think what would happen if a car doesn’t see you. Not worth the risk to me.”

Most boarders are teens or young adults, probably more male than female, Lundry said. “But it runs the gamut.” He’s been a police officer in The Dalles for 12 years now, and he feels the problem has become more prevalent in the last couple of years because of the longboards.

Lundry has issued just two or three tickets, which carry a $100 fine, to repeat offenders. He prefers to hand out copies of the city ordinance banning skateboarding in roads and alleys throughout the city and on sidewalks in the downtown business district.

Because the ordinance dates back to 1992, “I don’t think a lot of them are aware of it. When I pull over to speak to them, they say, ‘What are you talking about?’ Some of them take it well and some of them don’t.”

They’re also not allowed to skateboard in the roundabout or anywhere at the Lewis and Clark Festival Park. The ordinance can be found at www.ci.the-dalles.or.us, under the traffic control tab.

Skaters can ride on the Riverfront Trail, but not on the right of way north of the train tracks.

“A lot of that has to do not only with the safety of the trains but we get a lot of vandalism down there from skateboards being used,” Lundry said. “They’re not intentionally vandalizing things but they’re damaging city property.”

They like to “grind” their boards by sliding the deck of the board on concrete corners. “That eventually starts to break down the concrete,” he said.

It got so bad that on the concrete benches at the city’s new boat dock, “they had to put special metal blocks on those benches to keep them from being able to slide against them.”

The city’s skate park is heavily used, he said, but for some reason, some boarders prefer to skate elsewhere. “I think they’re just looking for another area.”

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