Rise above - Page 6

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

In 1997, Morrow and skateboard association lobbyist Jim Fitzpatrick gave up on amending the HRA and instead pushed Assembly Bill 1296, which added Provision 115800 to the state's Health and Safety Code, which states, in part and in much less forceful language — without using the word "liable," for instance — that owners or operators of local skateparks that are not supervised must require skaters to wear helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads, and that they must post a sign stating said requirement.

It doesn't say anything about "if one of you guys breaks your skull open and you're bleeding all over the place" while wearing a helmet, then you can't hold the operator liable.

When I asked San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Virginia Dario-Elizando how the law might apply to the city's skateparks, she told me, "This question has never come up. I must tell you, I've never even seen the rules for the skateparks — no one's ever asked me to look at them."

BMXers are willing to compromise if that's what it takes. In May, San Jose opened the 68,000-square-foot Lake Cunningham skatepark, built by the same design firm (Wormhoudt) as the Benicia park at a price of $4.7 million, and the place has bike hours. Like any park, there are rules. Like some parks, there's supervision, so the rules are enforced: separate bike sessions; helmet, elbow, and knee pads required at all times; brakes required on bikes; no smoking; no songs with swear words over the park soundsystem; no bikes in the three bowls with pool coping even though they only allow plastic pegs, which are undoubtedly softer on coping than metal skateboard trucks ... it's a long list of restrictions. It's inconvenient for guys who don't like pads or don't run brakes, and there's some griping, but we've got our eyes on the prize: the place is amazing, with a huge full pipe, massive vert bowls, and a decent street course.

I would like skaters to realize a couple of things: skating and BMX aren't so different from each other, at least in the feeling each gives you, right there, behind your sternum, where your heart beats.

Bikers are going to ride no matter what, just like skaters are going to skate. Legal or not, we're not going to go away. "I got arrested for riding there when I was 14," Ratima says of the Daly City skatepark. "They took my bike and threw it in the back of the car. I just kept going every day, and finally they just gave up."

"I've ridden bikes on vert," Thrasher editor Jake Phelps tells me during a phone conversation. "I can ride a bike in a pool, I can do that. I'm stoked when I ride a bike in a pool. Feels hella fun to me. Catching air on a bike is awesome, no doubt about that."

This, from the longtime editor of the bible of the "fuck BMX" set. It's either baffling or heartening. I can't decide which. "I don't mind people that are just regular," he says. "If they're skateboard people or they're bike people too, I'll respect anybody that respects me."

That's what it comes down to: respect. I respect the fact that skateboarders did not come into this age of skateparks easily. I faded out when there was nothing, and I came back when they were in small towns across America, and I missed all the politicos and dreary meetings. It's time for bikers to stop feeling like second-class citizens and demand a seat at the table. In the words of Black Flag, it's time to rise above.

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