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.