Drivers take up most of the road, bicyclists can’t go any faster and skateboarders have to use a map to find which streets they’re allowed to use.
The current law bans skateboarding on streets that:Have a speed limit above 25 mphAre in a school overlay zone Are in a commercial zoneThe proposed law states skateboarders:Can use smaller streetsCan’t use cellphonesHave to wear shoes and reflective clothingMust use hand signalsWhat the new law could mean:A clearer idea of which streets allow skateboardingSkateboarders would have to carefully plan routes to get aroundViolators would be easier to apprehend
Sharing the road has become tricky business in downtown Charleston.
A new proposal to City Council might help straighten out the misunderstandings, but the tension on the streets will likely remain.
The current skateboarding ordinance was confusing for skateboarders and police on Nov. 2 when 13 written warnings were handed out to skateboarders on the corner of St. Philip and George streets.
Reese Wilkins, a College of Charleston senior, said he rode his skateboard to class that day because his bike had been stolen. He said he didn’t know it was illegal to skate on St. Philip Street.
“(The police) told me I should know the laws and that they could have given me a $1,000 ticket,” Wilkins said.
Sullivan Ware, a College of Charleston freshman, said police told him the same thing.
But under the ordinance, the skateboarders’ offense has a maximum fine of $113.
Lt. Steve Sierko, who oversees police south of Calhoun Street, said the officer who handed out the warnings wrote them on tickets for livability code violations, which have a maximum fine of $1,092.
“That was a miscommunication, and he knows that’s not right,” Sierko said. “There was some confusion because of the way the code is written.”
Another confusing part of the law is the zoning map that’s required to understand it.
Ware said he tried to read the map and couldn’t figure it out. He said street signs would have helped him better understand where he couldn’t skate.
Sierko said the zoning districts also make it hard to enforce, which is why the department typically only issues warnings to offenders.
“If you refer to the map, it’s impossible,” Councilman Mike Seekings said.
Seekings said he would propose an amendment of the law to City Council by the end of the year.
The provisions of the amendment were decided on by a task force, which included police, skateboarders and other community members.
The new law would still prohibit skating on major streets, such as East Bay, Meeting, King, Coming and Calhoun.
On smaller streets, such as St. Philip, skaters would be treated like any other driver of a vehicle, except they wouldn’t be allowed to skate barefoot or use cellphones on skateboards.
Ryan Cockrell, a skateboarding advocate and co-chairman of the task force, voted against the proposal at the task force’s final meeting Oct. 2.
“It feels a little discriminatory,” he said. “There are certain provisions in there that aren’t included in bike or vehicle laws.”
Cockrell also said Charleston’s streets are more conducive to bikes and skateboards than they are to cars.
“Trying to limit anything self-powered here is just really silly to me,” he said.
Ware said he just wants to skateboard the same roads that allow bicycles.
“I completely understand why they don’t want people to skate on really busy roads. That makes sense. But if it’s somewhere that people can ride their bikes, I don’t see what the difference is.”