Skatetown: Interview with Longboarder Marco Morgan
Marco Morgan is a planner within the strategic and integrated planning directorate at the department of transport and public works. He’s also an avid longboarder who skates to work most days, and is a founding member of the National Skate Collective – an organisation helping to promote and advance the culture of skateboarding in the Central City.
CV: Marco, what’s the connection between your professional life – working for the department of transport and public works – and your personal life?
There’s really no difference, as skateboarding is a mode of transport: It’s designed to allow people the freedom to move about quickly. In my experience, longboarding seems to be the choice of skateboarders in getting from A to B. If it’s done safely, skating can be a great way to navigate around a city without using fuel. It’s eco-friendly, affordable, healthy and easily integrated into public transport networks.CV: Does that mean it is it legal and safe to skate in and around the Central City?
The by-law relating to streets, public places and the prevention of nuisance does not permit skating on public roads, except for places where permission is specifically granted. That said, we are allowed to skate on all non-motorised transport lanes in and around the Central City, like the Fan Walk, or on Bree Street. Both the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town advocate for more non-motorised transport (NMT) lanes, but the process from policy to action is a long one. Most skaters use the safest and most accessible option available – the NMT lanes – but these lanes do not accommodate the needs of a skateboarder entirely, and when this facility is not available, we use public roads. Despite the dangers associated with skateboarding, particularly downhill skating, most skateboarders take precautions to skate safely, making use of helmets and spotters when practicing for sporting events.
CV: What can Cape Town do to make the city more inclusive of skateboarders?
The National Skate Collective believes that creating inclusive and integrated spaces for skaters will prevent the friction between motorists and skaters, and increase safety. By-laws or prohibitions on skating in public spaces criminalise an activity that is harmless to the public and the infrastructure. Perceptions are changing, but without by-law or policy changes, the battle between authorities and skateboarders will continue. The lack of skate parks or skate plazas also propels skateboarders into an unsafe environment. It would be awesome if the City recognised skateboarders as opposed to marginalising and isolating them.
CV: Are there any moves to recognise and include skateboarders in city design and planning?
The World Design Capital 2014 bid book highlighted the need to create inclusive public spaces, and to recognise skateboarding as a form of transport. Skateboarding and creativity go hand in hand, and as a skater you are constantly creating, allowing your board and your environment to determine your movement. It’s good to know that initiatives like World Design Capital 2014 are considering the skateboarding community as they look at introducing innovative ways to attract people to the city and ignite public spaces.
CV: Who makes up the skateboarding community in Cape Town?
There are two aspects to skateboarding: there’s the activity, and there’s the culture attached to it. There is a negative stigma attached to skateboarding and skateboarders, and we are often thought of as deviants, or as nuisances. It’s a culture that is often misunderstood and misinterpreted in the public eye, and as the National Skate Collective, we’re trying to diminish this negative stigma, create awareness and promote skateboarding. Once you get beyond the stereotypes, you see that our community is not only rapidly growing, but also increasingly diverse: As far as skateboarders are concerned, there are no lines of race, gender or social status – if you skate, you skate.
CV: Where in the city do skateboarders hang out?
We skate everywhere in the city. I tend to gravitate to the slopes of District Six and Signal Hill. Every Sunday afternoon a bunch of skaters of all levels of experience from across the city get together for Lazy Alpha Sundays in District Six. As far as I know, the only designated skate spot is the Salesian Institute on Somerset Road, and if you want to find skateboarders and skate stuff, Baseline Studios and Revolution are the places to go.