Engineer, 55, Seeks to change City’s skateboarding Ban on Trails
Roger Brown may be 55 but that isn’t keeping him from riding his skateboard. Leave that up to a city law. “It makes a nice workout,” said Brown, a computer engineer who enjoys the relatively new sport of longboarding. The Santa Clara resident says he rode his board 27 miles in one trip last month.
The Bay Trail in Mountain View, where he once worked as an engineer at Silicon Graphics, is one of his favorite spots. But skateboarding isn’t allowed on Mountain View’s section of the trail, though it is allowed in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. A ranger Shoreline Park confronted him after he’d been skating the trails for a year. He’d never seen a sign about the law.
Brown spoke at the May 22 City Council meeting about reversing the ban and has so far gathered 95 signatures of support with an online petition.
The city’s rule against skateboarding was created in 1992 and probably targeted a different sort of skateboarder, Brown said.
“The first text message in a cell phone was sent in 1993,” said Brown, a computer engineer. “Look what has happened with that technology in 20 years. The same thing has happen with longboards.”
Thanks to his $500 board’s large wheels and long flexible deck, “This is one thing I could do today better than I did when I was 20 years old,” he says.
He says city officials have told him that the concern about skateboards is that they can fly out of control and injure others, but he says that’s unlikely on the flat trails.
“On a flat trail the reason you fall is you hit a rock,” Brown said. “The board sits there, unless Mountain View has outlawed the second law of motion.”
Brown said the city should make skateboarding legal everywhere, as long as someone is going from one place to another. As it is now, skateboards are illegal in Shoreline Park and the Stevens Creek Trail, said the city’s recreation supervisor, John Marchant.
Brown is an avid cyclist, but was looking for an alternative form of exercise. Running was too hard on his joints and walking wasn’t enough of an aerobic workout, he said. Having been a skateboarder as a kid, longboarding piqued his interest.
His new board allows him to maintain speed without touching the ground by “pumping” or swerving from side to side. The skateboards of his youth weren’t up to the task. “You’d go half a mile and huff and puff and say, ‘There’s got to be a better way,’” Brown said.
Brown said the city need not worry about gangs of skateboarders. The trails are already too boring for the majority who prefer ramps and rails at skateboard parks. “But for skaters like me, 10 miles of nothing, that’s perfect,” Brown said. “You’ve got the bay and the birds, a nice breeze, everything.”
Brown has received some support from the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail and has presented the issue to the city’s Parks Commission.
“I just informally surveyed our present board of directors and the consensus is that we have no issues with skateboards as long as public safety is maintained,” said Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail board member Aaron Grossman in an email.
Brown said he averages about the same 10 miles-per-hour speed on the flats as the Segway scooters Mountain View allowed on trails in 2010, the only city around to do so.
“The really good guys may average 12 to 13 miles per hour,” Brown said. “But they are like, Olympic-class athletes.”
“I think I’ve fallen down four times in nine months,” he said. “But if you are falling down, you are doing something wrong.”