COLUMBIA — After being issued a summons to appear in court for roller skating downtown, Evan Jones is looking to change this city ordinance.
As a former roller derby referee and an active member of the Midwest Men’s Roller Derby, Jones uses his roller skates to get around town.
Section 14-5 Use of coasters, roller skates and similar devices.
"When in town, I like to get away from the car and get out on my eight wheels," Jones said.
Section 14.5 of Columbia’s code of ordinances states that no one may roller skate, skateboard or ride toy vehicles or other similar devises on the roads, alleys or sidewalks within the Special Business District east of Fifth Street.
But Jones was not aware of the ordinance and was stopped on two different occasions by the same Columbia Police Department officer. After stopping Jones for the second time, the officer issued a citation summoning Jones to court. The officer confiscated his skates and told him that they would be held indefinitely by the city for evidence. Jones said he then walked part of the way home in his socks.
“It was unpleasant, also a little dangerous,” Jones said. “A friend drove by and offered me a pair of shoes, which I used to walk back in.”
Jones said that not having his skates kept him from training for a roller derby exhibition and asked if any readers could donate a pair for the competition.
“The bottom line right now is getting some skates,” Jones said.
But he's concerned about more than losing his skates. As a supporter of alternative transportation, he wonders why an ordinance that prohibits roller skating in certain areas of Columbia even exists. He said that he wants to start taking action to encourage a policy change in the ordinance.
Jones hopes to give a public statement at the next City Council meeting. He has also written a petition requesting the amendment or repeal of the ordinance and plans to present the signatures to the council.
“Skating is a large hobby for me,” Jones said. “I was very surprised to hear it was a law. I’m concerned there isn’t a legal way to get around besides walking, biking or driving.”
Officer Jeff Westbrook said they do not write many summons for the ordinance. Officers usually issue a verbal warning, but because Jones kept skating after being warned, he was issued a citation.
Westbrook said the ordinance is in place because of complaints the police department has received from business owners and shoppers who have collided with skaters.
"We're focusing on the downtown area because of such complaints," Westbrook said. "We're focusing on safety in the area, but not specifically on roller skating."
Jones contacted First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz and the PedNet Coalition with his concerns.
“I would think that roller skaters have the same rights that bicyclists have,” Sturtz said. “If we don’t want roller skaters on the sidewalks, we should let them be on the streets.”
Robert Johnson, educational coordinator for PedNet, said that he was unaware of the ordinance until he looked it up after receiving Jones’ e-mail and plans to look into the subject further.
Both Sturtz and Sixth Ward City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said they would look into reviewing the ordinance, as it might be outdated.
“It’s an issue that I hadn’t contemplated, but I am willing to discuss it further,” Hoppe said. “I would agree that we would have to look at it and see what a reasonable adjustment would be.”