Coast Community College District officials have lifted a ban on skateboarding and rollerblading at Orange Coast College until June 30 to encourage more students to skate, rather than drive, to campus.
Staff members and students at the Costa Mesa college are surveying the community response to skateboarders' return as part of a trial of the Core Campus Loop, in which administrators hope to improve traffic flow and safety by marking lanes and installing signs for a dedicated bike path.
"We're trying to create a culture of skateboarders as commuters and skateboards as transportation tools," said Marc Perkins, a professor of biological sciences who spearheaded the OCC bicycle and skateboard master plan.
Perkins said he bikes or walks to the campus every workday.
"At the end of the day, it helps me decompress and gets me out in the open air," he said. "For those 20 minutes on my bike … it helps me leave work when I'm [going home] and get in a good mind-set on my way to work."
Perkins said he's seeing growing interest in physically active types of transportation among his students.
Costa Mesa and OCC teamed up on the Explore Merrimac project, a recent event that temporarily featured protected bike and skateboard lanes on Merrimac Way, which runs along the southern edge of Orange Coast College. Perkins and his students are collecting data of near-collisions on campus to determine whether that is a viable option for the campus community.
Before the Core Campus Loop's installation, students observed three close calls between pedestrians and skateboarders or bicyclists. They've seen none since the project launched, Perkins said.
"To me, that's some really telling data that this may be actually improving safety," he said.
DANIEL LANGHORNE is a contributor to Times Community News.