The 'need for speed' does not trump safety

If you've had as many near misses with skateboarders as I or had your wife threatened by six skateboarders and their chase car driver, I believe you too would want skateboarders banned from the steep hills of Laguna.

In response to this last incident, I wrote a letter to 150 neighbors in the Bluebird-Morningside area. I didn't ask anyone to contact me, but 45 neighbors did. Of the 45, 44 had similar experiences, accidents or near-misses, were fed up with the number of skateboarders, and didn't think that anything could be done. The lone dissenter suggested I up my car insurance rates. (Although not scientific, a 44:1 ratio undeniably tells you about community concerns.)

Common sense dictates that you don't make unnecessary laws. But does it make any sense to allow anyone to speed through a residential area? To blow through stop signs? To scream down both sides of the street at 30 to 50 mph – all without brakes?

If you think this is a rare occurrence, I invite you to spend a few hours watching Bluebird, Morningside, Skyline, Park, Temple Terrace, Third Street, Summit or 10 other hills which have now become world famous for skateboarders (with groups from as far away as Australia).

Some have suggested that without this adrenalin rush, "need-for-speed" skateboarders would turn to drugs and mischief. Is this a real objection? Does anyone seriously believe there is scientifically determined cause and effect?

And does the enjoyment of a teen's adrenalin and entertainment really trump the personal safety of residents and of the teens themselves? Does the need for speed allow a teen to scare the living daylights out of people walking or driving our streets?

So ask yourself, "Which should have a higher priority – a 'culture of safety' or a 'culture of skateboarding'?" Perhaps we should ask the parents of teens who have had major brain trauma, broken bones or who have died in skateboarding accidents. (By the way, the huge majority of skateboarding accidents go unreported because friends toss the poor, injured kid into the back seat of the chase car and speed away before police arrive.)

Having lived here for 27 years, I've witnessed a huge spike in the number of skateboarders in the last few years and the numbers and incidents have simply become too large to endure. This is the essence of the issue. The number and the danger they pose have now become a public nuisance.

Residents don't want to kill anyone in an accident. We don't want to be harassed or flipped the finger. And we don't want our cars hit or our property damaged.

Because of this spike in the number of skateboarders, we need to control this public nuisance by banning skateboarding on steep hills.

I invite supporters to e-mail me at, and encourage you to contact our city council. If you want this problem solved, we'll need to email and voice our opinions to overcome the headline-catching pleas of some for more adrenaline.

Alan Bernstein lives in Laguna Beach

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