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Comment: The end of fun

Submitted by on 1, July 1, 2008 – 7:45 amNo Comment

A few weeks back we told you that in response to concerns about skateboarders in the new Civic Center Parking Structure, the City Council was considering a ban on skateboarding on city property. Imagine our surprise when Mayor Beverly Johnson, listing aesthetic concerns over the legally required posting of signs advertising the ban, suggested the city simply ban skating, skateboarding and bicycling on all city property, including parks – and the rest of the council nodded their heads in assent. And to sweeten the deal, they plan to let park supervisors cite scofflaws. It would be a gross understatement to say that we think this is a really bad idea. And it looks like people agree with us: Some 93 percent of participants in our recent poll on banning cycling in parks said they don’t like the idea.

Let’s start with the fact that this is a city that claims to be striving for a more “green” way of living (Clean and Green Fourth of July Parade, anyone?), and that a huge part of that plan is getting people out of their cars. How does kicking kids off their bikes and scooters in some of the only safe places they’ve got to ride in encourage this? Then there’s the question of the necessity of this ban. No one – not even the Police Chief, who proposed the original skateboard ban – cited a safety concern with bike riding or skating in parks. Our esteemed mayor simply believes the signs that would have to be posted in select locations advertising specific prohibitions would be too ugly. Then there’s the utter lack of a public process around this proposed ban. It was discussed as a specific ban on skateboarding on public property and evolved at eye-blinking speed into a full-blown ban on “muscular-powered vehicles,” without any real opportunity for public debate. And the council has put the item on its consent calendar for tonight, meaning it could be approved without a real public hearing. Lastly, we have to consider the wisdom of giving park supervisors the right to cite. Our neighborhood park is already run pretty much like a prison camp, complete with signs hand painted by the kids in the park program there banning cycling, scootering and climbing trees. Are these folks who really need more power?

We’re with our colleague John Knox White in hoping that the council was just in such a hurry to finalize the budget that it didn’t stop to think about this, and that it will be reconsidered at the council meeting tonight. We’re all for dealing with specific safety issues. But we think that this proposal – and not bikes in parks – is what needs to get banned. The City Council has more important issues to deal with. Let’s focus on those instead.

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