Sounding Off: Looking for the facts about skateboarding

A one-page flier, printed front and back, and entitled "Skateboarders on Steep Hills" was recently taped to our fence. Since the flier is reputed to have come from the "Bluebird Canyon" neighborhood (a neighborhood in which I live), I was interested in reading the message and perhaps getting in contact with the authors of the flier since it makes a number of assertions. I like to check the facts, and, unfortunately, wasn't able to since there wasn't any contact information in the flier except a plea to write or call my City Council members.

I am choosing to investigate the statements in a more efficient manner — the press. Let me begin with where I live — on the corner of Bluebird and Summit where I have a front-row seat on the driving practices of my neighbors who live up and down the hill as well as of the skateboarders going down it.

There is a stop sign on the north and south side of Summit, but none for those driving east up Bluebird (which makes sense since it can be risky to brake part way up the hill). Do drivers regularly stop at the north and south stop signs? I think a better choice of adverbs would be "intermittently" — or, more generously, most engage in what the officers call a "California stop." (They take their foot off the gas pedal, roll a little through the stop sign, and then accelerate.)

In contrast, the skateboarders always stop (probably in honor or fear of the steep descent). Score 1 for the skateboarders on safety, and -1 for the drivers.

Paragraph #2 of the skateboard flier claims that hundreds of skateboarders "fly downhill at speeds up to 50 mph." Has this been clocked or verified? The only way that a driver could verify this is by keeping pace with the skateboarder. Is the speed limit for drivers in our hills here set at 50 mph? If it is, it shouldn't be.

Paragraph #2 continues with the assertion that there has already been a death, a broken collarbone, broken arms, broken wrists, etc. How many of these same injuries have occurred in cars? Should cars be outlawed on our streets? Have any similar injuries occurred in any other sports, such as football, soccer, tennis, cycling, etc.? Should we outlaw those activities in Laguna?

Paragraph #2 also says that 436 residents have complained to the police in the last 20 months about the skateboarders. Are these 436 different residents or repeated complaints by the same people? The flier isn't specific, and I was curious since this is part of my neighborhood, and I was never asked (nor were my six nearest neighbors).

Paragraph #3 consists of a number of bullet points including "no one wants a lawsuit from hitting a child with a car." Pardon me, but this statement is a bit chilling since it implies that hitting children in your vehicle is only problematic because of a lawsuit. Many of us would find hitting anyone (regardless of age) horrifying because of doing harm to another. Who in the world is more concerned with a lawsuit than injuring someone? Ethics and values, anyone?

The last bullet point says that "no one wants to be treated disrespectfully — or even threatened." Are the children who skateboard people? Have those that issued this flier spoken to them in a respectful, nonthreatening manner? Who is scarier — a person behind the wheel of a car or a kid on a skateboard? Both can do harm if they hit you, but the data suggests that the former does the most serious harm and leads to more fatalities.

Bottom line: I'd like to see safer, more defensive drivers. Our drivers don't just threaten the skateboarders, but all of us who walk our dogs, stroll to the beach, jog in the morning, etc. The drivers are much scarier than the skateboarders, and need to be reminded (probably with tickets) about what safe driving is all about.

Deborah Laughton lives in Laguna Beach.

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