BALOG COLUMN: Skateboarding is not a crime
Skateboarders, here's your chance.
Act like you belong on the roads and maybe you'll actually be viewed as something other than a dangerous nuisance.
As Schuyler Kropf reported Saturday, a proposed six-month pilot project would clarify rules for skateboarding in downtown Charleston.
No, you wouldn't get to go the wrong way up the one-way part of King Street (like you do now). But you would be able to glide along on more of the streets near the College of Charleston campus than what's currently allowed under the law, as well as around a great deal of current college housing.
If only we could get everyone who travels through the peninsula to obey the same rules — yes, that's aimed at you, bicyclists talking on your cellphones or riding with your earbuds in while going the wrong way down a one-way street.
Share the road
If you want equal road respect, act like you deserve it. And that goes for everyone. When one bicyclist blows through a stop sign or stoplight, it's a Confucian confusion: If there's nobody around to see it happen, is a law actually broken?
Sure, it seems unfair. You're smaller, more nimble, but if you zig when everybody else expects you to zag, that's how accidents happen. And you're going to lose.
The roads should be for everyone, and before we get into the whole “who's paying the gas tax” debate, we would do well to remember that we don't give people with bigger gas tanks, who presumably pay more gas tax, more rights to the road than those who drive gas sippers.
Just because somebody's in a smaller car, say, a Ford Focus or a Nissan Sentra, doesn't mean that driver has any less right to be there than a Chevrolet Suburban or a Ford Expedition.
It just feels that way sometimes.
A modest proposal
These aren't draconian requests.
“Footwear shall be worn at all times.” Who the heck would want to skateboard down some of our downtown streets with bare feet? Two words: carriage horses.
“Must obey traffic signals, such as stop signs, and use hand signals for turns.” That seems reasonable, unless you're going to outfit yourself with some kind of trailer-like lighting system.
“Handheld communication devices cannot be operated while riding.” Why? Because if you're texting, you're not looking at the traffic. Same as in a car, but that is, as they say, another column.
These rules would actually be good for anyone using anything on wheels to get around.
“No consuming of alcoholic beverages or riding intoxicated.” That's what mo-peds are for (well, unless legislation passes this session to change that.)
The one proposal that is likely to be the most difficult to accept and yet the most useful is the proposal that skateboarders must be visible. Being visible requires either bright or reflective clothing.
Anybody who runs or rides a bike pre-dawn or post-sunset knows what this means — reflective vests, blinking lights, maybe even a reflective belt.
Because looking dorky is still better than getting hit by a car.
Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.