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Supporting the skate ban

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Supporting the skate ban

by Dr. William B Snavely

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As Chair of San Diego State’s University Senate, I’ve been asked to share my perspective on the skateboard issue.

I have had to put a filter to immediately delete all the “Lift the Ban on Skateboards” emails that have been spamming my email account, so I understand the desire of many students (although I do not appreciate your tactics).

The ban (SDSU Police Code 100.02E) has existed for many (15?) years. It is inaccurate to say the Senate banned skateboards this year. Last year, AS requested a trial period for the bike lane during which the police agreed not to give tickets for bikes and skateboards in the designated lane.

Police reportedly gave 95 citations campus-wide, but none in the lane. Senate’s environment / safety committee reviewed the experiment last spring, observed that skateboarders rarely got off at the end of the bike lane, and proposed a resolution supporting the bike lane, but without skateboards.

This exclusion of skateboards did not pass the Senate. The bike lane was made “permanent” by the university starting this fall. SDSU Police went back to enforcing the existing Code that bans skateboards.

Clearly, skateboards are a part of many students’ culture and they enjoy the ability to move quickly across campus on their boards. For many, it is an issue of fun and freedom. I personally have no problems with skateboards in general, although I have heard two problems:

Safety. When bikes and skateboards are off the bike lane, they can be dangerous. I’m convinced most skateboarders are well-skilled and rarely, if ever, run into pedestrians, but the fact is it happens more often than most boarders would like to admit. Example: last winter I had to traverse campus while disabled from a broken ankle. Despite being illegal off the path, skateboarders were all across campus, not just on the bike lane. In one case, the individual swerved around a group of people in front of Hepner Hall and just did not notice my crutches — they ran into one of them — thankfully I was able to keep my balance. In another, I was literally knocked down by a skateboarder while I was going up the curving handicap ramp near East Commons.

Damage. Skateboards are fun and part of it is tricks, even if those tricks damage walls, rails, benches, etc. The campus has installed hardware to prevent damage, but some still occurs. I recently observed an example in front of the Administration Building. This happened while the ban was in effect and being enforced — how much more damage would be done without the ban? If opponents of the ban are to be believed, there will be hundreds or even thousands more skateboards all across campus as soon as the ban is lifted. Proponents say we can make rules about wheels on the ground and staying off handicap ramps — how is that going to be any better enforced than it has under the ban?

So what do I think?

I like skateboards. As chair of Senate, I remain open to the arguments and will likely not take a position except to facilitate discussion and the reaching of consensus on our recommendation to the President, should the issue come to us. What might work? Limiting skateboards to the bike lane clearly did not work. I’ve heard complaints about the fine this year and have noticed fewer students riding on campus since it has been enforced, albeit sporadically. So, maybe the best idea is to lift the ban on skateboards but increase the fines for skateboarders who (1) run into pedestrians, (2) skateboard on a handicap ramp, or (3) perform any “wheels up” riding. Can boarders live with this? If skateboards did not run into people, did not use the ramps and did not cause damage, I am at a loss to know what objections there would be. Clearly, pedestrians should always have the right of way, it cannot be argued skateboarders should use handicap ramps and it is clearly in the university’s interest to protect its property from damage.

As for the online petition that sends me emails each time someone “signs” it, no worries — I never see them — they go straight to the trash bin. Constructive and civil discourse always wins with me, and I suspect with most faculty and staff on campus. I look forward to the debate!

– Dr. William B. Snavely, Chair University Senate

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Supporting the skate ban”

  1. anonymous on December 14th, 2011 3:28 am

    What a joke. I see bikes outside of the lanes all the time and I never see them get off where the lane ends. If this institution really wants to promote alternative transportation then they will legalize ALL types of wheels not just skateboards. Typical SDSU administration, never willing to fully commit to something.

    How many tickets have been given out to smokers outside of designated areas? And why don’t we have those stupid trucks and golf carts GET OFF THE WALKWAYS when people are getting out of classes? Talk about hazardous and inconvenient! I could go on.

    How about we let students get around campus how they like and we focus our resources on things that matter.

    ps – I don’t even ride a skateboard and I think this is ridiculous.

  2. Clark on August 28th, 2012 2:28 pm

    To say this issue doesn’t matter is a failure to understand this article and something that has been talked about for a long time now. I enjoy skateboarding, but given the construction and general crowdedness this campus holds, we need to consider these arguments. I don’t see a need to completely ban bikes, but we should hold responsible those who fail to keep others’ safety and the integrity of this campus in mind when skating (and biking of course, although bikes have never caused me or anyone I have seen any real inconvenience).

    People are used to bicycles and how to avoid them or give them room, it’s something our society has generally had experience with. Skateboarders, not so much. In addition, it’s much easier to brake on a bicycle than it is a skateboard. More people can ride a bike and understand the physics of the vehicle better. Skateboarders can cause confusion for those who have no clue as to how they stop or where the rider may turn or not. Many skaters give their own convenience more weight and concern than other students/faculty. Too often do we see skaters trying to weave in and out of crowds or even zipping down bridges. These instances are not safe for the public, and I find it hard to believe that it is courteous as well.

    Not all wheeled modes of transportation are the same. It cannot simply be said that either all wheels or none should be banned. There are different variables that affect safety among other things between bikes, skateboards, or even scooters. In addition, many of those “stupid trucks and golfcarts” are transporting handicapped students or doing a job that you most likely don’t take the time to look into – they could (and most likely are if they are willing to drive through crowds) be doing something very important for the school or its students, that may or may not have to be completed at such an inconvenience time. It’s not as if the trucks and carts enjoy driving around so many people or let alone know our individual schedules, that is more frustrating for them than it is for pedestrians (how does it feel to sit in traffic or down a street full of pedestrians?). All we have to do is take three steps in a different direction. As I said, the carts do not enjoy causing inconvenience or driving through crowds. I have a feeling that it’s pretty fun weaving in and out of crowds. Although, I wouldn’t know, I have at least some concern for the safety of the people around me – but maybe I”m being ridiculous.

  3. Sue on November 13th, 2012 8:43 am

    Maybe if people stop texting when they walk around campus, lift their heads up, and open their eyes…..skateboarder and pedestrian collisions would happen less frequently. Many people who have been WALKING have almost physically bumped into me because they can’t stay off their phone for 5 seconds. If everyone paid more attention to their surroundings and people used skateboards for transportation (not tricks) then everyone would be able to go on peacefully with their lives. Just a thought.

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