Skaters and the Law: A Fan Looks Back at a Few Battles of 2011

Unfortunately, battles between skaters, politicians and law enforcement are all too common. For years skaters have been subjected to being run off public property, regulated and fined. In 2011, however, the battle between the groups reached a whole new level. Here’s a quick look back at some of what happened between the parties in 2011:

Helmet Laws

In the spring of 2011 some snowboarders and downhill skiers found themselves on the same side of the law as skaters and bicyclists when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie modified the state’s helmet laws to include them. Although the law may have surprised winter sports enthusiasts, it didn’t surprise the skateboarders. Most have been dealing with helmet laws for some time now. There are several states that mandate helmet use among skaters including New York and California. In New Jersey, those 17 years of age or younger caught skating without a helmet are subject to fines. New York requires skaters 14 years and younger to wear a helmet and California’s helmet law targets those 18 years of age or younger. Speaking of California helmet laws, in 2011 skaters banned together in hopes of repealing or amending a piece of California legislation known as SB 264. The SB 264 has been on the books for some time now and part of it requires all California skatepark users to wear helmets, knee and elbow pads. The other part of the bill listed skateboarding as a hazardous recreational activity, which reduces public skatepark liability. It was due to expire on January 1st, 2012. Skaters were hoping to have the section of the bill requiring the use of helmets and pads removed. Their efforts did not succeed and the bill was extended. Skaters are not the only ones affected by these helmet laws. Those connected to skaters started to feel the heat too. As part of New Jersey’s helmet law, skate shops that fail to post signs informing patrons of the state’s helmet law are also subject to daily fines. The fines vary by state and municipality but typically start at $25 a day and go up from there.

In 2011 some of the states also started taking the promotion and enforcement of existing helmet laws up a notch. A few of them even received government grants to do so. One of the more recent grant recipients was the Solano County Health Department. It received $125,000 to promote helmet use among skaters, bicyclists and others. Earlier in the year the Cornell University Police Department in Cornell, New York, also received a similar grant for over $9,000. The Cornell University officers used their grant monies to send out more officers to hand out safety pamphlets and ticket skaters, cyclists and pedestrians. In November 2011 a 12 year old skater in Memphis, Tennessee, was handcuffed and detained for not wearing a helmet. At the time the state didn’t even have a law on the books making skating without a helmet illegal. The City of Memphis has since added such a law and rule breakers will be fined $50.

Excessive Fines

In 2011 several places across America outlawed skating in certain areas and added fines to penalize scofflaws. What surprised me about this the most was both the far reaching aspect of the fines and the amounts. Case in point, in the fall politicians in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, decided to fine both skaters and their parents for skating in certain areas of the city. With the new law what was once a $300 fine for the skater is now potentially a $900 fine, a $300 fine for each parent and a $300 fine for the skater.

My children are skaters and I have a history of following the sport and politics.

More from this contributor:

Top 5 Greatest Moments in Skate of 2011: A Fan’s Perspective

Top 5 Worst Moments of Skate in 2011: A Fan’s View

Three Extreme Winter Sports for Skateboarders

X-Dance to Show Skate Films Jan. 12th-15th, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah

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