An Open Letter in Response to the Proposed Skateboarding Ban
I am writing to express my concern about the bill banning skateboarders from Lawrence city streets. I work and live in Lawrence, and while I understand the concern for safety and the occasional annoyance, I feel that an all-out ban on street skating could have unintended consequences. I think we need to look at this issue from multiple angles.
We should be considering skateboarding as a form of alternative transportation as well as recreation. There are a lot of reasons that skateboards have become so popular as a form of short distance urban travel. It is an inexpensive way for young people to get from place to place. In my neighborhood and on my way to work, I see young people using their skateboards to get to school, the skatepark, and wherever else they need to go. As well as being a cheap and easy way to get around, skateboarding is a green form of transportation and provides exercise. In a city with a high rate of asthma and obesity, this form of transportation should remain a viable option. By passing a ban on skateboarding the City is denying hundreds of young people access to their chosen forms of transportation.
While it cannot be denied that the rise in the number of youth skating in the street increases the risk of injury or accidents, a vast majority of skateboarders in Lawrence are not an issue for local businesses, police, or private security. It is unjust to put hundreds of local youth at risk of being outside of the law, as they will likely continue to skate regardless. I believe we can find ways to provide local law enforcement with the tools for controlling unwanted behavior without pushing an entire segment of youth “under the legal bus.” Some considerations are to require that skateboarders obey all traffic rules, identical to bicycles (the Massachusetts campaign Same Roads, Same Rules is a great place to start: www.SameRoadsSameRules.org). Riders should be required to wear helmets and reflective clothing. And youth should NOT be lying down on their skateboard, drafting off city buses or other vehicles, or obstructing traffic. Should trick skating become a problem for public and private properties, it can be identified by law enforcement based on its specific traits, (jumping the board, for example), and consider banning that type of skating in certain dense areas. Relegating skateboards only to the sidewalks is not an acceptable solution as it has ramifications for pedestrians and is not viable for the parts of the city without sidewalks or improperly maintained sidewalks.
Like in other parts of the state and the country, we should start thinking of our streets as multiple-use. Rather than increased regulation, I believe we need increased education for youth AND adults, drivers and skateboarders (and cyclists and pedestrians!). We should find a way to protect our youth while still giving them the freedom to gather together and play and get to where they want to go. There are a number of examples of cities that have found solutions to this issue without demonizing the youth who skateboard. This is a valid form of exercise and transportation, and it is clear that it means a lot to the youth of our city. I would please urge everyone involved in this issue to look into this further before passing the ban.
For quite some time, the topic of moving has been bought up a lot within the conversations between my group of friends. We’re all looking for a new place to leave to. Either far away from this place or closer to those we value. The thing is this whole moving thing will always be a win-lose situation for all of us. Either we’ll be happy that we’re finally moving out of this city or we end up dreading the fact that we will miss this place. This city has been my home since the day I was born. I met a lot of amazing people here. I’ve learned so much from everyone and everything around me. And if I was ever to leave this place, there will be no doubt that I’ll be back. This city is apart of me.
Lawrence aims to force skateboarders off repaved roads
By Keith Eddings email@example.com
October 11, 2011
LAWRENCE — It’s an hour before dusk as Ryan Torres pushes off from the top of Bowdoin Street and glides down the middle into the growing swirl of boys who have come to practice their power slides and kick flips — and to soak up some of the outsider aura that surrounds their sport.
"It’s the smoothest street in Lawrence," said Torres, an 11th grader at Haverhill High School, standing atop his longboard — a longer, wider cousin of the skateboard — and offering a simple explanation of what brought him here.
A little later in the evening, as night settles on Bowdoin Street and Ryan and his friends disperse to their homework and video games, City Councilor Eileen Bernal calls the committee she chairs to order. After a 30-minute discussion, the committee gives tentative approval to a bill that would ban skateboarders from city streets, corralling them onto the sidewalks or into the skateboard park in Misserville Park on Allen Street.
"They’re in the middle of the street, in hordes and packs, I don’t know what the right word is," Bernal told the committee about her own encounters with skateboarders. "The newest phenomenon is they lay flat on their boards. You can’t see them over your hood."
Bernal’s bill would add Lawrence to the list of communities nationwide that are regulating skateboarding in response to the resurgent interest in a sport developed in the 1940s by California surfers looking for something to do in the winter. Today, one out of six American children owns a skateboard — 9.3 million in all — according to Board-Trac, a sports marketing and research company.
Advocates for stricter regulation say skateboarding’s growing popularity has coincided with an increasing number of injuries and accidents, including a collision with a car driven by a hit-and-run driver on a Taunton street on Aug. 4 that killed 17-year-old Nicholas Silva-Thomas. Data on accidents and injuries was not immediately available for this story.
Drawn to repaved streets
Wherever they’re enacted, laws regulating skateboards often set up a David-and-Goliath clash of cultures, pitting police, local officials and neighborhood associations against groups of mostly adolescent boys, including many who are drawn to skateboarding by its freewheeling, anarchistic appeal and high risk, and the fact that more than any other sport, its playing field is the street.
In Lawrence, the appeal of the street has grown significantly over the last year, as the city began repaving streets that had been neglected for years. Bowdoin Street got its glassy-smooth coat of asphalt early in the summer which, along with the gentle decline in the grade of the street that is a perfect pitch for a longboard, made it irresistible to Christian Pimentel, 10, a fourth-grader at Frost Elementary School.
"The other streets are way too bumpy," Christian said one evening last week as his friends swarmed around him on their longboards, jumping curbs and weaving through the light but steady traffic. "I tried to power slide on another street and got hurt."
Here, the pull of skateboarding seems stronger than a Bruins game.
"Five pieces of steel," Your Majesty (he and his friends insist that’s his real name) Medina boasted about the planking inside his purple Mini Logo board, which comes nearly up to the chest of the 9-year-old when he stands it on end. "These are bullet trucks. It says ‘bullet’ right here. The bearings to these wheels are ABEC 8’s. If the wheels are too big, you get wheel bite."
'It's their street'
Like clockwork for the last four months, the boys have come to the corner of Bowdoin and Clifton streets in the early evening to show off their tricks and their boards and bruises, jump the granite curbs and stage impromptu competitions. They’re almost all boys between 9 and 16 years old. A few girls mingle around the edges, but it’s not the longboards that seem to bring them to Bowdoin Street. It’s the boys who ride them.
On this night, none wore protective gear such as a helmet or gloves. There were no adults present, except those behind the wheels of the cars that picked their way down the block and a woman who came out of her house to offer her view of the ritual. She identified herself only as Marie.
"This is what we have to deal with," she said, sweeping her hand across the noisy, chaotic swirl in front of her house. "These kids are not getting out of the way. We’ve seen them grab onto the back of a city bus for a ride. That’s a four-way stop on the corner. They just fly through it. I’ve spoken to them and they don’t care. Their attitude is it’s their street. It’s like we’re inconveniencing them. It’s like we’re in their way. They need a skate park. They need somewhere to go."
In fact, Lawrence opened a skate park at a cost of $500,000 in 2007, but the park has little appeal to longboarders who do fewer tricks than skateboarders and need gentler declines.
"At community meetings, this is one of the top issues we hear about," police Chief John Romero said about the growing numbers of longboarders in the city as its streets are repaved. He said he’s directed officers to confiscate the board of anyone found skating recklessly in a street and keep it until the boarder shows up with his parents. Romero said he would welcome a new city ordinance that would include fines or other penalties.
"If you keep them off the street, they’ll end up indoors or breaking the law," said Miki Vuckovich, executive director of the Tony Hawk Foundation, a California non-profit group that provides grants for building skate parks. "It seems counter-productive when our national goal is to get kids outdoors and keep them active."
"It’s not going to happen," Torres, the Haverhill student, said about the compliance the city can expect if it attempts to chase longboarders from the streets or impose some of the other regulations the City Council is considering. "If you’re going to have to ride in lines and wear a helmet, that’s not the thing about skating."
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The Greater Lawrence Young Professionals Network will be hosting a resume workshop this month for anyone who could use help creating a first draft of a resume or refining what they already have. Date: Tuesday- October 18thTime: 6-8pmWhere: Lawrence High School Don’t miss out on this great resource. They are there to help you!This workshop is open to all students, not just seniors.
Join Family Service, Inc. for our “Mentor For a Day” Event on Oct. 22 (which happens to be National Volunteering Day) from 12 PM-3 PM! It’s a FREE festive event where you can be matched up a child on our wait list. Many children wait several months for a mentor— and this is their chance to have fun with a friend for 1 day!
We will be at a farm, where you can enjoy
and a corn maze!
For more info or to RSVP, please contact Mercedes Tran @ 978-327-6644 or firstname.lastname@example.org.