“Council finds: Skateboarders use neighborhood streets as a venue for an extreme thrill sport, and not as a means of transportation for which the streets were designed;”
— Text from the skateboarding ban ordinance
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has waded into the debate over whether or not City Council should support a proposed ban on skateboarding in the West Hills.
In a letter to Commissioner Randy Leonard (who’s pushing the ordinance at the behest of Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association board member Eric Nagle), the BTA said that despite a recent clarification in the ordinance that the ban would not include bicycles, they remain uncomfortable with the proposal and they want it removed from tomorrow morning’s City Council agenda.
Specifically, the BTA is concerned about a section in the ordinance’s pre-amble that reads:
“Skateboarders use neighborhood streets as a venue for an extreme thrill sport, and not as a means of transportation for which the streets were designed;”
For very obvious reasons, this language is totally out of line. Our streets were not designed solely for transportation; they are public spaces used for a variety of purposes.
The BTA says the ordinance would, “legislate recreation and physical activity out of the roadway.” “Our city-funded Safe Routes to School programs,” states the BTA letter, “encourages kids to walk, bike, skateboard, scooter, rollerblade, and rollerskate to school. This ordinance runs counter to our shared goals.”
The BTA also adds weight to the concern that this ban proposal — which was pushed through by Nagle and Leonard’s office outside of an existing collaborative process to find solutions to dangerous skateboarding in the West Hills — will do little to actually solve the problem.
Here’s how the BTA puts it:
“For nearly a year, this informal group, including staffers from the Police Bureau, Parks, the Bureau of Transportation, and invested volunteers, has worked on a safety campaign focused on curbing dangerous skateboarding in Arlington Heights. This ordinance has put the launch of that campaign on hold… it would seem wise to pursue behavior change through education and engineering rather than another enforcement-based solution.
In short, this ordinance has a negative effect on responsible road users, particularly neighborhood kids, while undermining a safety campaign that the city, including the Police, considers to be the best solution to a very serious issue.”
The BTA says they’d rather not have to oppose the ordinance when it comes up at City Council tomorrow morning. Instead, they want Leonard to withdraw it from the agenda.
The BTA’s involvement raises the stakes on this issue for Mayor Sam Adams and the other commissioners who could be forced into a vote on it tomorrow. Now the Portland Police Bureau and the city’s largest bicycle advocacy group have publicly opposed the ordinance. First seen as just a skateboarding issue, it has become clear in the past week or so that much more is at stake and this ill-conceived ordinance should not move forward.
In addition poorly crafted and dangerous language, the proposal would quadruple fines (from $25 to $115) for a variety of traffic infractions targeted at people riding skateboard, scooters, roller skates, and “similar human powered devices.”
Mayor Adams, who leads both the police and transportation bureaus, should be at the center of this debate; but so far he has not commented. Asked yesterday for his position, Adams’ transportation policy director Catherine Ciarlo said Adams will, “Hear what’s presented at Council and make a decision at that time.”
I’ve asked Commissioner Leonard and his policy advisor Stu Oishi for a response and will update this story when/if I hear back.
I’ll be reporting from City Council tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
— Full coverage of this issue in the archives.
UPDATE, 1:32pm: I just spoke with Commissioner Leonard. He said he’s willing to take the ordinance off the table if the community (including skateboard advocates, bicycling advocates and so on) would re-affirm their commitment to a solution and set a clear timeline for moving forward with it.
“If there is an agreement by all participants in a work group that there is a public safety issue and all sides want to resolve it as cooperatively as possible and in good faith, I am willing to listen and be flexible.”
Leonard said that he wants a commitment to a 45-60 day timeline and he wants skateboarders to acknowledge that this is a serious problem.
“I’m hearing, this [ordinance] is going too far. I’d like hear what people are willing to do instead, what that process would look like, and a commitment to getting it done with a defined timeline.”
If that is agreed on, Leonard will take the ordinance off the agenda. When that timeline passes and no solution has moved forward, Leonard says he’ll put the ban ordinance up for a vote at Council.
This is a huge opportunity for people who want to see this issue resolved without a ban. Stay tuned.