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Skateboarding rises as transportation

by DrSinValley (writer), San Francisco, April 30, 2007

San Francisco, Ca.-Everyday, unless it’s raining, Ramsey Garcia, 30, rolls his longboard -- a three-foot skateboard with large black wheels -- to San Francisco State or to work downtown. He rarely uses his a car and he doesn’t have a bicycle; the skateboard is his principle transportation from his house on Sloat Boulevard.
“It takes a good portion out of my daily commute,” said Garcia, a native of San Clemente. “And it gets my heart rate up to keep me warm in a colder city.”
Longboard skateboards, different than those used for ollies, 360 flips and grinds, are becoming a trendy form of transportation. According to the San Francisco Skateboard Task Force, Garcia is one of an estimated 25,000 skateboarders who live in San Francisco. Many ride their boards as a form of alternative transportation although it’s illegal on city streets and many sidewalks.
“Skateboard use, as transportation, on the streets and sidewalks of the city is rampant,” according to the Task Force’s 2004 Skateboard Master Plan. “While current law only permits skateboard use on residential sidewalks between dawn and dusk, real usage is going on nearly around the clock.”
For skaters like Garcia the ride can be a haphazard gauntlet of speeding cars, pedestrians, potholes and police.
“Scary moments? I’ve had a few,” Garcia wrote in an e-mail, “a couple of close encounters with cars pulling out into traffic and not seeing me on the shoulder.”
The law is another risk for skaters. When Garcia rolls to the east edge of the SFSU campus, he always tries to remember if it’s a protest day or not. If a protest is happening, he can’t ride through the sloped campus because University police are on the prowl, said Garcia. A run-in with the police could mean a ticket, a fine and possibly confiscation of his board. Garcia has been warned several times.
“If I see them I try to hop off,” Garcia said. “Or I’ll have my headphones on and pretend like I don’t hear them.”
In California, skateboard law varies from county to county, city to city even sidewalk to sidewalk. State law allows “transit boards, public agencies, and local authorities,” to specify where skateboards can be used on public property. San Francisco traffic code states that skateboards cannot be used on any city street at any time, only on residential sidewalks from dawn to dusk.
“When compared to other locales both in and out of California, San Francisco has the most restrictive code (as of January, 2004) to be found,” according to the Skateboard Master Plan.
The problem, said Adam Colton who in 2005 pushed his longboard 3,000 miles across the United States for charity, is that police don’t distinguish between street skaters that often damage property with their daring grinds and longboard skaters, which are usually harmlessly cruising.
“Unfortunately, the law doesn’t allow for that,” said one San Francisco State University Police Officer.
This results in skateboards being used for transportation throughout San Francisco “illegally as often as legally,” according to the Skateboard Task Force.
But a few ‘no skateboarding’ signs and obscure traffic codes won’t stop skaters altogether.
“Overall, this city has revived my passion for skating,” said Garcia, who has never been hassled by police for skateboarding outside of university grounds.


About the Writer

DrSinValley is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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6 comments on Skateboarding rises as transportation

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By Cindy on July 06, 2007 at 12:43 pm
Great article.
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By Charles, Jr on July 07, 2007 at 06:25 pm
I've had the same problem with my Long Board. Here I am a young man in school Being Green, I'm respectful of bikes, walkers, MUNI and cars, but too often the police confuse me with the Short Boarders.
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By Bill on July 10, 2007 at 02:18 pm
good story
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By Mistress Doctor on November 05, 2007 at 10:32 pm
nicely written
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By Kris on November 06, 2007 at 05:48 pm
Cool story dude. Spread the green word. Get the laws changed and the police state off us.
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By weeeezzll on September 10, 2010 at 12:30 am

People who ride long board shouldn't be trying to differentiate themselves from short boarders. They should instead encourage the city to banish these ridiculous laws. If the city is really worried about damaged property then they already have laws for that. Arrest people for commiting actual crimes. If you catch a skateboarder doing something that damages property then ticket or arrest them for that. Banning all skateboarding because some people use them to damage property is like banning cars because some people use them to do donuts and burn outs, or all motorcycles just because some people do wheelies on them.

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