The Mark Side of UCSB: Skaters Deserve Rights on Campus

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

There will be town hall meetings next week on Wednesday and Thursday in the UCen’s Harbor Room to discuss a possible skateboarding ban on campus. So what possible crimes against humanity have occurred to influence the Associated Students Commission on Public Safety to even consider banning skateboards on campus?

One of the main complaints against skateboarders on campus is the danger they pose to others on UCSB’s busy walkways. That’s understandable for anyone who has witnessed a collision between a skater and a pedestrian. These accidents do tend to occur more often when more people are around. Despite how forceful these impacts appear, they typically don’t get any worse than scrapes or bruises. They certainly don’t compare to the twisted metal crashes that occur on the bike paths.

The person in any real danger is the skateboarder. Skaters are the ones in an unnatural position several inches off the ground. Any disruption to that equilibrium means trouble for the skater. Even skaters who are not performing dangerous tricks are at risk of getting injured. I was skating around the corner of the Arbor when I saw a fellow skater heading right for me. I immediately stopped and so did she. The two of us had zero momentum for a good second or so. Then she fell over backwards off her board. She should probably stick to walking.

The current regulations on skateboarding are reasonable enough. The university requires that skateboarding be done in permitted areas at a reasonable and safe speed. Skateboarders must yield to pedestrians and motor vehicles. Trick skating is not allowed. It is considered vandalism if done on campus property and comes with a fine.

To be honest, I don’t always follow the university’s rules. Even though it clearly says “no skateboarding” right on the ground of the Arts Building, I do it anyway. But it’s not like I blaze down the hallway at tremendous speed. I barely go faster than a power walker. The only exception is when I see someone jump in my skate path to hand me a flyer for whatever God-awful cause the person represents. Then I get a little sadistic and intentionally ram into that person from behind. I break the rules all the time. I just exercise discretion with each case.

But if you want to talk about reckless rule breaking, take a look at how the running team uses the bike path, or the bikes crisscrossing campus even during those peak times between classes. Skateboarders aren’t the problem. It’s the jerks and morons that aren’t mindful of the people around them. Not everyone can react accordingly to skaters winding their way through a crowd. These same people can be found on inline skates, scooters, Segways and zipping around on those ridiculous Heelys. Why single out skateboarders?

One can’t ignore the merits of skateboards as transportation. Skateboards are cheaper and more portable than bikes. Skateboards can even get to a destination faster since they aren’t limited to a path, able to go most anywhere that can be traversed by foot. Skateboarding is simplicity itself. Just kick, push, kick, push and coast.

It’s interesting to note that in 2005, plans for an Isla Vista skate park finally became reality. The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District gave the green light to the construction of an $800,000 dollar park. So far, funding for the project has been so successful that it’s estimated construction on the park will begin in 2008. Once the park is completed, it’s sure to attract even more skaters to the area. If the district is willing to accommodate skateboarders, then why shouldn’t the university?

I agree that there are legitimate concerns about skateboarding, but there’s no need to place blame on the inanimate object. People should be the focus. More informal panels addressing skateboarding concerns, stricter safety regulations or even assigned pathways are all better alternatives to a complete ban on skateboards. This matter of banning skateboards on campus definitely requires that more thought be put into it because it affects a significant amount of the student population. I encourage people to show up at next week’s town hall meeting to voice their opinion on the issue.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla can jump two homeless people, maybe three.

Posted by Batalla at 12:36 AM  


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