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Skateboarding In Streets Proposal Hits Roadblock

Skateboarders should be allowed to ride in streets and bike lanes like bicyclists, according to Lee Shoemaker, Eugene’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. He has not gone to the Eugene City Council with the proposal because he has heard mixed opinions about it, he says. Eugene city law currently allows skateboarders to ride in the streets only while crossing them. Downtown, skateboarding on sidewalks is also illegal. 

“Some people supported it — they wanted a viable way to get around,” Shoemaker says. “The people that were opposed were concerned about safety of skateboarders in the street.”

He says the Eugene Police Department (EPD) has voiced concerns about skaters’ ability to control their boards and stop because they don’t have brakes. “We’re currently working with Eugene police officers on a proposal that we may bring back in the future, but it’s not ready for that now,” Shoemaker said during a May 27 City Council meeting.

EPD declined to comment about whether it supports Shoemaker’s proposal. EPD gave out 34 tickets for skateboarding in a prohibited area in 2013 and have handed out 24 in 2014, according to EPD spokesperson John Hankemeier. Each citation costs $50.

Shoemaker says the proposal is aimed at making skateboarding a more feasible transportation option.

“You would have to have lights on at night, yield to pedestrians, would have to ride on the right side of the street like a bicycle,” Shoemaker says.

Skateboarding in streets and bike lanes is legal in Portland and three other Oregon cities — Salem, Corvallis and Ashland. 

Tessa Walker, skateboarding advocacy group NW Skate Coalition board member, says skaters using streets and bike lanes is a good solution for all road users when skaters have the same responsibilities as bicyclists.

“Skateboarders travel at speeds similar to bikes, and they can steer and negotiate traffic just fine,” says Tessa Walker, skateboarding advocacy group NW Skate Coalition board member. 

Walker studies skateboarding from an active transportation planning perspective and is an asset management assistant for the city of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation. She says the street is the safest place for skateboarders to ride.

“Being off the sidewalk keeps skaters safe because it protects them from hazards like broken pavement that can cause trouble for their small wheels,” Walker says, “and it keeps pedestrians safe because they’re not sharing space with a much faster mode.”

All skateboarders under age 16 are required to wear a helmet in Oregon. 

Shoemaker is also behind two other active transportation proposals. One would allow electric-powered bicycles on bike paths and the other would modify the downtown areas where riding bicycles and skateboards on sidewalks is illegal. The City Council will host a public hearing about these two proposals July 21 and may take action July 28.