Getting It Right
Mea culpa. I want to apologize for the title of my column, GROMs Be Gone. It was not my intention to say that skateboarding should be banned from Laguna Beach.
For those of you that don’t know me well, I spent the last year fighting breast cancer. I rarely read a paper, drove a car or went for a walk. Thus, I missed the whole Skateboarders vs. City Hall. If I had, I would have been better informed and not selected an inappropriate title.
So let me be clear. I do not want to ban skateboarding. I want to make it safe, fun and lawful for the skateboarder and driver.
Ms. O’Brien, in her guest column last week, wrote that ‘skateboarding has a few kids who behave inappropriately, repeatedly ignoring the rules and ordinances set forth by our city.’ I’ve heard this from my skateboarding friends, ‘It’s the young GROMs who aren’t obeying the rules.’ True, the day my stomach dropped into my bladder, the skateboarder who jumped in front of my car looked about 8 years old.
Is Ms. O’Brien saying that the majority of skateboarders follow the municipal code and are under the 25 mph speed limit, stay in an upright skating position (no bending at the waist) and stop at stop signs? That the majority of skateboarders yield to pedestrians and ‘to vehicles approaching from the rear by moving to the right curb or shoulder of the street or roadway’ as the code states?
Not on the streets I drive. I can’t remember the last time I was behind a skateboarder going downhill and they skated over to the right hand side of the road. Just today, two older skateboarders blew through the intersection at Bluebird and Oriole, skating in front of two cars right down the middle of the street. They had no intention of slowing down or moving towards the right curb.
Two readers emailed me that downhill skaters had hit their cars and rolled underneath. Several said they had near misses when skateboarders didn’t stop at intersections. For every angry email I got, I had 10 people telling me they agreed with me. Something needs to be done to keep our kids safe.
Everyone’s afraid. Scared they will be labeled anti-Laguna. Scared they will get in an accident and be sued for liability. Scared they will lose their sport.
For starters, drivers and skateboarders need to follow the rules of the road and treat each other with respect. That means no yelling at skateboarders; no jumping in front of cars, and most importantly, no name calling columnists (that’s sarcasm for those who don’t get my humor).
The municipal code needs to be enforced with police handing out tickets. This isn’t me being intolerant. Chad Gibbs, who has been working to make the sport safe, posted on the Indy site, we need to ‘ticket non-compliant skaters and work with the city to provide an alternate outlet.’
Unfortunately, I don’t think the city’s code addresses downhill skateboarding, a sport that aims for high speeds and skillful maneuvering of curves. Instead of banning streets, the city, parents and participants need to figure out a location where downhill skateboarders can safely practice and compete.
The code also states that skateboarders are not considered pedestrians when they are in motion. The city needs to figure out what are they. Drivers? Moving pedestrians?
We all make mistakes. Let’s come together on this one and make sure we get it right.
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