Skateboarding is not a crime, but skaters need to think |

Skateboarding is not a crime, but skaters need to think

There I was, driving along Highway 174, minding my own business, when suddenly I rounded the corner to find a teenage kid skateboarding. In the middle of the road. This kid is actually lucky I had a shoulder to drift onto, or else he would have been joining the deer scattered alongside the road.

And the skateboarders of the world wonder why they should be required to wear helmets? This isn’t the only incident of this type that I’ve witnessed. In the six or so months that I’ve actually held a driver’s license, I’ve come close to squishing more than one skateboarder. With kids dashing between moving vehicles in parking lots and falling off curbs, I’m bound to nail one sooner or later.

Before I get into this, I should probably clarify that I by no means despise all the skater boys of the world. Many are good kids who just happen to enjoy riding on a board with four wheels. I do, however, have a bone or two to pick with the ones who vandalize property, abuse skateparks, harass people in parking lots and act like complete jerks.

Not more than a couple of years ago, Nevada County pulled together to hold fund-raisers and put up a fight in order to construct a skatepark in Condon Park. Finally, after months of fund-raising and construction, the park became a reality. After this, I was under the impression that people would go there to skate in a safe environment, instead of on the sidewalks or in the middle of state highways. Apparently, I was confused.

On more that one occasion I have heard from parents who have taken their younger children to the park to skate, yet arrived to find skaters in their teens and early 20s in possession of and using illegal drugs. It is intended to be a safe place, not a place to smoke pot. If that’s what you’re into, then do it somewhere else, because it is completely inappropriate to be smoking around children who are there just to skate.

Then there’s the group who proudly boast bumper stickers that read “Skateboarding is not a crime.” I agree that skateboarding is a legitimate activity and perfectly legal. What isn’t legal, however, is what goes on while some people are skateboarding. When skating takes place in parking lots or on streets where it is posted that skateboarding is not allowed, and when curbs are abused, then it is illegal. When someone takes the liberty to “grind” on a monument dedicated to people who have given their lives for our freedom, such as the veterans’ memorial in Memorial Park, then it is illegal. In fact, it’s called vandalism and trespassing, so people really shouldn’t be surprised when they are talked to by the police for engaging in such actions.

Another kicker is when people actually skateboard down the sidewalk (which may be a little better than down Highway 174, but still bad) and run pedestrians off or just plain knock into them. A little courtesy would be really cool.

Speaking of really cool things, helmets are super-cool, and everybody riding anything with wheels that goes sort of fast should wear one and stop complaining. Head injuries are serious stuff and will kill you if you screw up enough. And hey, let’s face the fact that skateboarders aren’t always the most graceful group of people, and a lack of coordination often causes them to stumble off of their board and skip into traffic. Getting hit by a car (especially if you get hit by a car going 45 mph on a highway), is at least a little less serious if you have on a helmet.

I honestly don’t mind that people skateboard, but I do mind that some skateboarders do a really good job of making themselves look ignorant. If you are one of those people, you need to realize that should you ever want anything else – like another skatepark – from this community, chances are that you will have made it awfully tough for the good kids to get it. By disrespecting law enforcement officials, breaking laws and defacing memorials, you are getting yourselves nowhere in terms of respect.

I would also like to acknowledge the kids who are probably not so happy with me right now for totally ripping on the bad skater kids. I have a great deal of respect for the group of youth who are out there skating and staying out of trouble. I just wish that the good kids would knock some sense into the punks, because I really can’t afford to do a whole lot of dent repair on my car if this trend of skating on Highway 174 keeps up.

Natalie Russell, a 16-year-old Grass Valley resident, is a junior at Nevada Union High School. She writes a monthly column. E-mail her at

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