I’ve been digging through the internet for primary sources and have come across some interesting things. To begin with, while browsing, I came across a profile for Professor Gregory Snyder who is working on a book about skateboarding culture. I called him and asked him what I should focus on in the Bay Area. I had browsed through some of the skate magazines, but I didn’t know that one of them, Thrasher, was from the Bay Area. He also told about some other books to look into and emailed me a copy of an article he had written.
The internet seems to be revealing a pretty strong contradiction concerning skateboarding. Communities are taking away the skateboarder’s legitimate places to skate, then blaming them when something tragic happens when they skate elsewhere. In my opinion, the legitimate skateparks should stay in place, then the skateboarders would have no need to skate elsewhere.
Bayskate.com tells how Caltrans is destroying skater made parks. These parks didn’t cost tax payers anything. The skaters themselves created them out of dirt mounds and concrete under the highway overpasses. These places are safe from injuring innocent bystanders and keep the skaters out of the public eye, yet they are being destroyed. East Bay Express elaborates on this story. They inform us that one of the parks Bayskate was referring to had already been shut down and the other one the other one is going to be, informing the readers that skaters had “lost to the man.”
With such limited legitimate options for skateboarding, what are skaters to do? One option is to simply skate on the street. Unfortunately, that can have some serious consequences.
When a skater accidentally kills a woman, the issues become complicated. It is obvious that the young man did not purposely plow into an old woman at 15 mph on his skateboard. He even stayed with her afterward trying to help her. This begs the question, if he hasn’t got somewhere to skate, what is he supposed to do?
This seems to also lead into other issues. Students I’ve spoken to at East Bay as well as other schools say they rely on their skateboards as transportation. If tragedies such as this one paint skateboards as a liability to the public, then schools are apt to place higher restrictions on the use of skateboards as transportation. San Francisco State has some pretty strict rules about skateboards. They don’t allow them to be ridden on campus at all. Students must carry or walk with them at all times. These kinds of rules seem very alien to me. I come from a college that caters to a lot of international as well as domestic students, so the campus is very diverse. Most people use bicycles or skateboards for transportation, so these kinds of regulations would not happen at the University of Oklahoma.
There seems to be a self-perpetuating cycle going on. There are not enough places for skaters to go to skate, so they create them. Government and business destroy these places, so the skaters are forced to skate in places that put themselves and others in danger. When something tragic happens, the skaters are blamed and it generates public fear and loathing of the sport, marginalizing the skaters even more, making it even harder for them to find and build legitimate places to skate. It seems to me, if more parks and legitimate places to skate were built, this cycle could be broken.