City Skateboard Policy Balanced

Performing aerial gymnastics on a skateboard requires an extreme sense of balance--and so does crafting municipal policy on skateboard parks.

The city of Ventura hit the right mark with its decision to post warning signs at its skateboard parks that require visitors to wear helmets and elbow and knee pads, but not to make enforcement a high priority. The decision leaves the responsibility for safe skating where it belongs: with the skaters and their parents.

No one has yet designed a helmet to spare city officials the headaches of regulating this popular pastime. Those headaches go something like this:

Should a city allow skaters to do their thing anywhere they choose? That could pose a danger to unwary pedestrians, create traffic hazards and invite damage to public benches, railings, planters and other tempting obstacles.


Should a city snub skaters by outlawing their activities on sidewalks, in parks, at schools and shopping centers and elsewhere without providing an alternative place where skating is OK? That further alienates the young, encourages violations of the ban by otherwise law-abiding youths and adds to the underground mystique of the sport.

Once it decides to build skate parks, should a city attempt to eliminate the air of risk and anarchy that make the sport so appealing? That seems like a sure way to guarantee that the parks won’t be used much.

But if it opens skate parks and leaves safety decisions to the skaters, should the city--meaning taxpayers--be legally and financially liable if skaters get hurt? No. Those who participate in risky sports should be responsible for their own safety.

The city of Ventura balanced all these issues in setting its new policy. Under a 1997 state law, posting signs that require skaters to wear protective gear shields the city from liability claims by those age 14 and older. Last week, the City Council passed an emergency ordinance that makes it unlawful for someone to use the city’s skateboard park without safety equipment. The law also gives staff members the authority to post the signs at its three skateboard parks.


By building these parks, the city has done the right thing for its young citizens who enjoy skating. By warning them to wear protective gear and skate safely, it has fulfilled its legal obligation. Beyond that, responsibility for safe skating rests with the skaters and their parents.

That sounds fair to us.