Friday, March 31, 2017

Safe Skateboarding Tips

All right. Having been skateboarding in Downtown Calgary for a little over 2 weeks now I can contribute some street knowledge I have gained through terrible accidents and creative dodging around pedestrians and cars. I'll put some street photos in to make it a bit more interesting.

Your Riding Stance
First, I ride conventionally - left foot first, right foot is my pusher. When I get my boosted board, I'll be attempting both conventional AND goofy (right foot leading). I want to do this for two reasons: My achilles tendon is very tender after over-using it on the board lately. Proper stretching and exercises will help it out, but I need to switch feet to relieve the stress.

Safety Gear

Please don't hit the streets or sidewalk without the proper safety gear. And by gear I mean the following items:

* Wrist guards
* Skate shoes (vans or similar)
* Knee pads
* Elbow pads
* Helmet (closed / protected mouth if possible to prevent breaking your jaw on a crash)

Optional items

* Impact pants
* Moto jacket 
* Lights on board and person
* Bike Bell or noise maker

Having taken a really bad spill 2 weeks ago, I learned my lesson about taking on hills without skills. I wobbled right off and landed on my back, giving myself a nasty road rash on my left arm and left hip. It's recovered fine, but it's still sore from the road bounce. I now walk down steep hills instead of 'taking it on'. Not worth it.

Riding on Sidewalk or Road?

Tough decision. For me, riding on the sidewalk is  a given since they're pretty wide and  I can easily maneouver around people if there's enough room. You have to visualize the traffic and people into your ride equation. Cars do not know how to react to a skateboard on the street. They might not even see you. If a bike path is available, take it. If you must ride on the street, be very careful if you lane split between cars and large vehicles like a bus. The bus won't even know you are around and you could get bounced into another moving vehicle or road sign. Be extremely vigilant.

Respect fellow riders or commuters

If you're looking to pass a cyclist, please don't do this without letting him/her know with a bell or noise. Do NOT pass a cyclist if they are also in the act of passing someone. That's really nasty. Don't filter in FRONT of other bikes or electric skateboarders while waiting for a red light. Cars are fine - but you have to recognize that you're putting your body in between two 2 ton vehicles and it can be very easy to be squished between them.

Extreme Vigilance

Watch parked cars for people sitting in them. Don't be one of those people who gets door to their face. It's better to take the entire lane than skim close to parked vehicles. Riding in traffic is never a good idea but if you must do this, please be careful and don't go reckless. This means don't blast through red lights, cut other cars or cyclists off, or even pedestrians.  Of course not everyone is going to like having you on the road. I once had a cyclist give me the mean eye when I was longboarding down stephen avenue. I just returned the look.

The Police !

Ok, so here's the deal: Legally, in Calgary you cannot use skateboards downtown unless you're outside the designated core zone (essentially all of downtown). However, even today when I was skateboarding right across from the courthouse, a police officer was waiting for the pedestrian sign to change. He didn't even bat an eye when I skated past him. The police are only concerned if you are being a total asshole to other people:

* Excessive speed around pededstrians or cars
* Putting other people or yourself in danger
* Damaging property
* Blasting through red lights
* Bombing down roads at very high speeds

They really don't care if you are skating reasonably and not being a problem to anyone. As long as you respect the rules of the road and other people's safety, things will be fine. As more and more electric personal vehicles come into production, you'll slowly see a shift from car-centric transportation to all-electric vehicles.

Skateboarding is extremely fun and can be done at any age. Get out there and shred!

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