COLUMBIA — Evan Jones, who was issued a citation in July for illegally roller skating downtown, is trying to find a compromise with the city to change the ordinance.
The Bicycle/Pedestrian Commission is reviewing the ordinance and will discuss the issue at its Wednesday meeting. Commission member David Heise said members would then give recommendations to the City Council.
Section 14.5 of Columbia’s code of ordinances states that no one may roller skate, skateboard or ride toy vehicles or other similar devices on the roads, alleys or sidewalks within the Special Business District east of Fifth Street.
In the public comment portion of the Aug. 3 City Council meeting, Jones asked the council to reconsider the ordinance, suggesting changes that would allow skating within the downtown area.
Jones had discussed his statement with his council representative, Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, before the meeting.
“From my perspective, it makes practical sense to allow someone on roller skates to have some way to get across town through the business district,” Skala said.
Skala said the City Council requested a staff report on the ordinance to get information on other communities with similar demographics that have either had the same problem or have possible solutions.
In his public comment to the council, Jones suggested some possible solutions, including bicycle lane provisions for skaters, not allowing skating in high-traffic areas such as Broadway and exempting skaters from a clause that allows property seizure so that their skates could not be confiscated.
As far as his own citation goes, Jones said he has retrieved his confiscated skates and he pleaded guilty at his Friday court date. But during his public comment he instead chose to focus on the ordinance.
“I ask that the council please reconsider the current ordinance in favor of one that protects the use of healthy, environmentally friendly transportation within the city,” Jones said. “I ask that this ordinance be re-evaluated, especially in light of the city’s encouragement of transportation alternatives to the automobile. There is a compromise to be found.”
Revising the ordinance would include looking into the safety issues related to having skaters and skateboarders use the streets. PedNet Coalition Director Ian Thomas said he is interested in looking into the issue and the results of allowing skaters and skateboarders behaving like cyclists.
"It's certainly a problem," Thomas said. "We generally support the idea of people going out by active modes, and that would include skating and skateboarding, but obviously that's not possible at the time unless there were paved trails or something like that."
During Jones' public comment, he presented the council with a petition that held about 200 signatures. He had posted the petition at many downtown businesses, including Eastside Tavern, Main Squeeze and Shakespeare’s. He also walked through downtown to explain the issue to shoppers in hopes of gaining their signatures and support.