Skateboarders, roller skaters now allowed on downtown streets

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | 1:40 p.m. CST; updated 6:03 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 23, 2011

*An earlier version of this story misquoted Christopher Bailey.

COLUMBIA — Drivers now have more than pedestrians, bicyclists and animals to watch out for on the streets of downtown Columbia. They'll have to pay attention to skateboarders and roller skaters, too.

At Monday's City Council meeting, council members unanimously passed an amendment allowing skateboards, roller skates and similar transportation devices on roads within the business district. The change takes effect immediately.

Previously, city ordinance limited the use of skateboards and roller skates to local, or residential, streets. Now they will be prohibited only from using downtown sidewalks and public parking lots and garages. 

Riders will have the same rights and responsibilities as bicyclists. They must yield to pedestrians and travel at a reasonable speed, according to the ordinance's new language. 

The ordinance lists out several regulations: Skaters must stay on the right side of the road and wear helmets, reflective clothing and a front-facing lamp between sunset and sunrise. 

Christopher Bailey, owner of Parkside Skateshop, the executive director of the COMO Skateboard Commission and a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, helped rework the language of the ordinance.

"Columbia's regulation on skaters in Ordinance 14-5 is inconsistent with the kind of healthy and active community we strive to be," Bailey said at Monday's meeting.

He collected more than 600 signatures from Columbia residents as well as formal letters from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, PedNet Coalition, the Mayor's Council on Physical Fitness and Health and the Environment and Energy Commission, all in support of the amendment.

"Skateboarding is not only a sport but a growing trend of transportation in recent years," Bailey told the council.

He pointed out that many communities have overlooked skateboarding as one of the practical solutions to problems such as child obesity, rising gas prices, traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

"Let's show our citizens and other cities that we value our skaters and they represent a vibrant and vital* part of any urban community," Bailey said.

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Al Larr November 22, 2011 | 7:08 p.m.

Are they serving alcohol at the city council meetings? Hey kids, go roller skate in the middle of the street.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield November 22, 2011 | 8:29 p.m.

I saw two teenagers skateboarding down Broadway around Fifth Street this evening. No helmets, lights or reflective clothing – or attention paid to the traffic beside them. It won't be long before one of them gets creamed by a car backing out.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm November 23, 2011 | 7:08 a.m.

I have no issues with this as long as; they have lights at night, stay on the right side of the road, ride in a straight line, and stay as far to the right as possible if they are going slow. However, experience with long boarders on campus tells me that they will be weaving all over the place regardless of lane or traffic.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 23, 2011 | 7:42 a.m.

The main problem I have with skateboarding on public roads is that when a skateboarder falls, often the skateboard goes somewhere else, sometimes at considerable speed, which can injure people who happen to be in its path. This is not an issue with roller blades or bicycles.

On campus, skateboarding (or bicycling) between classes is not a race. The safety and comfort of pedestrains must be foremost to skaters and riders, alse they cause so many problems they are banned.


(Report Comment)
frank christian November 23, 2011 | 7:51 a.m.

Heaven help, I thought there was now some hope for our Council. Wrong again.

"First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt asked the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission to change the language of the existing ordinance. When he served on the commission, Schmidt said, there was an incident where a roller skater was trying to skate to and from work but couldn’t get through downtown because it was illegal, “which is some old antiquated rule from the '60s where a stuffy business man got knocked over by a teenager on roller skates, so they made a rule.”

I was a "stuffy business man" who to make my business "wheelchair accessible" provided a ramp, which also provided a jump for teen skateboarders whom may have injured themselves, then sued. Who? BTW, when asking them to leave, I Always got smart lip from the skaters.

"It won't be long before one of them gets creamed by a car backing out." This is true. Then two lawyers, one for the plaintiff, one for the defense will milk that motorist dry.

(Report Comment)
Chris Bailey November 23, 2011 | 1:34 p.m.

It is ironic that when countries “prosper,” adding more and more motorized vehicles to the roadways, drivers tend to exhibit less tolerance for their non-motorized brethren. Perhaps the ultimate irony unfolds in first world countries, when cultural leaders realize the great cost imposed upon the environment and the deterioration of physical vitality caused by dependence upon motorized transportation. The relative prosperity of the last decades of the twentieth century, and revelations from medical science about exercise, life style, and longevity combined to place focus on human powered alternatives particularly in urban areas across the US. In 2006, Columbia, Missouri was selected as one of four communities in the nation to participate in the Federal Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot program and accepted $22 million in federal funds to help build infrastructure and establish public awareness and willingness to use active modes of transport. Active modes of transportation. This should encompass and encourage many different types of self propelled vehicles not just biking and walking. Columbia’s regulation of its skaters in ordinance section 14-5 is inconsistent with the kind of healthy, active community we strive to be. To confiscate, fine, and in some cases even apprehend our citizens for simply skating down the street in this day and age is not only an efficient use of law enforcement personnel and resources, but is also in direct contrast to the federal funds we accepted to promote just that. Skateboarding has grown immensely. While more traditional sports are in decline skateboarding is on the rise. Not only as a sport, but in more recent years, as a growing trend in transportation. Right now in the U.S. child obesity, gas prices, congested motorized traffic, and green house gases are at an all time high. This has had lots of communities seeking out solutions to these problems. One solution that many people have turned to but many communities have over looked is skateboarding. Skateboarding as transportation is in a word, practical. Not only does it provide all the same health, environmental, and fiscal benefits as bicycling, it is much more compact, lighter, and takes up less space. One can simply be picked up and carried into work or school and doesn’t have the need to use overcrowded bike racks. It is also much faster than walking, still gentle on city streets, and conserves precious fossil fuels. Amending ordinance 14-5 will not only be promoting the use of active modes of transportation to our citizens with no cost to taxpayers, it will also make it safer for skaters and pedestrians alike. Cities like Tacoma, Washington, Portland Oregon, Minnetonka Minnesota, and even the entire state of New York (which have much more complex transit systems) have had the foresight to recognize their skater’s value and let them utilize city streets like a bicycle. Skaters represent a vibrant, vital part of any urban community.

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum November 23, 2011 | 2:12 p.m.

No skateboarder ever tried to ride on the right side of the road wearing reflectors of no less than 2in in size and a forward facing headlamp. None ever will. Therefore, the law changes nothing. Congrats. How often do you make a daily commute of 5 miles or more on your skateboard, stopping at traffic lights (where are the brakes?)-- or do you typically drive most places on a daily basis? This is coming from a daily (even in bad weather) bicycle commuter, who can also land a heel-flip. I never got much hassle riding my skateboard, unless I stayed in one place, doing tricks.

Again, I personally have no problem with the new language of the ordinance, because it literally doesn't change anything; a cop can still stop any skateboarder downtown that isn't obeying traffic laws and/or wearing the proper night-time gear. Since none do, what difference does the insignificant rewording of this ordinance make? Maybe next time you come down-town, do it on your skateboard.

(Report Comment)

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