Rise above - Page 5

Skateboarders were once outlaws. Now they're the establishment -- and they're trying to drive BMX bikers out of public parks. Can't we all just get along?
Photo by Joey Cobbs

To anyone who has skate etiquette — which is everyone — we all take turns."

Besides, let's face facts: a skatepark is a dangerous place — to different degrees at different times, and for different reasons. "I swear to God, every time I go to the skatepark I see a hundred boards flying all over the place," Ratima says, "and I've never seen a bike go flying and land on a guy's head." It's not an inflatable jumpy house — it's fun, but it's not made out of cotton balls and your mother isn't here. Usually.

Rose Dennis, press liaison for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, seemed baffled that someone would want to ride a bicycle inside the skatepark part of the new Potrero del Sol. Perhaps as a way of distracting me from my damn-fool idea, she kept hyping the park's "other amenities."

I live three blocks from Golden Gate Park — if I want to play Frisbee, I'm not going to drive across town. I want to ride. When I brought up the possibility of scheduling bike-only sessions in the yet-to-be opened park, she suggested I draft a letter to general manager Yomi Agunbiade, before adding that "the facility wasn't designed for that type of recreation."

When I (graciously, I thought) let her know that it would be not only possible to ride a bike there, but highly gratifying, she got a little heated: "At the end of the day, the buck stops with us. If one of you guys breaks your skull open and you're bleeding all over the place, believe me, no one's going to have any sympathy for Rec and Park if they make really nonjudicious decisions."

In other words, like a lot of city officials, she's worried about getting sued.

But you know what? There's actually less chance a BMXer will successfully sue the city. I give you California Government Code Section 831.7, which states the following: "Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable to any person who participates in a hazardous recreational activity ... who knew or reasonably should have known that the hazardous recreational activity created a substantial risk of injury to himself or herself and was voluntarily in the place of risk."

The law lists "bicycle racing or jumping" as being a "hazardous recreational activity." It's on a fairly extensive list, along with diving boards, horseback riding, and the ever-popular rocketeering, skydiving, and spelunking, which, as I'm sure you've heard, are all the rage with the kids these days — much more popular than BMX.

But the words "skateboarding," "skateboarder," and "skateboard" are not listed anywhere in the text of the Hazardous Recreational Activities law, commonly called the HRA law. In fact, the International Association of Skateboard Companies has been lobbying to get the bill amended to specifically include "skateboarding" since 1995, when Assemblymember Bill Morrow (R-San Diego) took up the issue. Morrow's bill was rejected by the state Senate Judiciary Committee in 1996.

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