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Kids & Adults Criminals for Skating or Biking Commerce GA

roadskater's picture

Let's face it, when it comes to banning healthy if sometimes risky athletic pastimes of youngsters and adults, city councils are forgetting those freedoms they so often talk about at election time, when the specific freedom in question doesn't involve something they want to do. They even forget that adults are affected by laws they pass to control children. You can hear the "let's keep government off the little guy's back" whenever it suits them, but the really little guy or group had better watch out because everybody else for sure knows what's best for them.

I'm not a skateboarder, and I'm against destruction of other people's property more than our government is from the look of things. I'm not a cyclist (or seldom and not much of one) but I skate the roads with them for charity. And while some cities are looking for ways to make their streets more friendly and safer for non-motorized traffic, others are trying to get their kids and adults to stay away, stay in a cage, or stay indoors.  

These pitiful city council stories are almost always silly, and you can test that by replacing the word skater with driver or coffee drinker or shopper or Southern Baptist (my heritage) or some other word to check how it sounds. Try replacing skateboarding with walking, driving, praying, shopping, drinking coffee or something similar.

It is just as unthinkable to me that you would outlaw skating, skateboarding or cycling as it is to most of the voters if you said to them, "No more cars." Or, "No more breathing." But let's make it about freedom and money, shall we?

According to this mainstreetnews.com account of Commerce Georgia's banning skating and cycling pleasure downtown:

The ordinance is the result of complaints about skateboarders acting irresponsibly in and around the downtown, and one incident in which a bicycle crashed into and broke a display window at [a particular store].

I've got news for you! I myself have personally noticed walkers and automobile drivers and even elected officials acting irresponsibly in and around my downtown, and I know of no city that outlaws these folk either en masse or individually...just their stupid behavior when it is caught, and when someone with integrity sees them get caught, sometimes.

If a car driver crashed into a store window, there would be no outcry to stop all drivers from coming into the business district! We should only be so lucky to have downtowns with motorist-free streets and people walking or rolling from store to store, like in the old days, you know, the old, old days before we reconfigured everything for the automobile, giving up horses, trains, bikes, walking and all other modes of human powered transportation.

Just as is done with drivers on the highway, ticket dangerous and injurious behavior of individuals when you see it in skaters and cyclists. But don't ban all skaters because of some skaters. Don't even ban a skater who made a mistake any more than you do motorists who make mistakes. Spend a day in traffic court and you'll remember that people do some stupid stuff in cars and get by with some money and maybe some time off driving. Driving itself is never banned no matter how many die!

As for skaters, require education and free licenses if you must, free training, seminars, whatever. Let kids and adults easily earn these privileges if you can't stand to just let us exercise and transport ourselves without gasoline. Use it if you must in order to communicate the unacceptable behaviors like property damage, but don't keep these kids (or adults) from being able to ride or skate down to the local drug store for some ice cream or a coke.

You do want the kids to look back on their childhood with the same fondness for your hometown as you have, right? You do want your kids to stay in Commerce GA instead of getting the heck out of there because you can't even skate, right?

Let us all, adults like me, and responsible kids, exercise and perfect our athletic skills! Let us all remember that whole pursuit of happiness thing. Some of you like owning a gun, right? Surely you know people have had accidents with guns, and some people have even gotten hurt?

Tons of kids get hurt playing football. City councils don't ban football because kids get hurt. They'd get hurt if they tried, or at least they'd surely be voted out of office for caring so much about kids doing something dangerous! Let's see, what's more dangerous, skating off a wall with a helmet on, or getting creamed by guys twice your size all wearing helmets as weapons, over and over and over?

These little kids are so dangerous, these skaters, that Commerce GA Police banned one kid from the civic center area for FIVE YEARS! To quote the original story:

Setting the stage for the action, two Commerce police cars responded just before the meeting to a small group of skateboarders in the parking lot across from the civic center. At least one was issued a criminal trespass warning banning him from the property for five years.

I drive through Commerce GA often enough to spend money at their gas stations, restaurants and stores. I stop on the way to the Atlanta area from Greensboro, or when driving over to Athens. Guess what. I will try my best not to spend any in Commerce from now on, especially down in that dangerous business district. Dangerous to personal freedoms, that is.

And I might as well not spend my money in Banks Crossing either, because they probably associate with those people over in Commerce, and you know they might be dangerous too, 'cause just like skaters and cyclists are all alike, those merchants must all be alike, right?

So what was the reasonable and prudent win-win mutually beneficial keep government off your back solution the Commerce GA city council came up with?

As of Tuesday morning, it is against the law to use skateboards, roller skates, rollerblades or bicycles on downtown sidewalks. It is also a criminal act to use skateboards, roller skates or rollerblades on public streets and parking lots in the central business district.

Does that cover speedskates? Unicycles? Lawn mowers? Tractors? Scooters? Camels? Ha!

Note that if you're on a bike on the road, they can't stop you because Georgia law protects that right. All other rights for all adults and children to use a skateboard, skates or a bike, are gone in Commerce GA. The land of the free and home of the brave, good ol' USA.

"There has been talk of building a skateboard park or type thing, but we have not settled on a place or applied for any grants," he said. "We understand there is some grant money to do these-type things. We are in the process now, since we are going to do this, we need to put them somewhere."

If I go spill some coffee on a book in a bookstore in Commerce, GA, will they ban all coffee drinkers and make a special coffee jail for java junkies to go as the only place they can drink their Joe at certain times? Can I drop ashes on a carpet there and have them ban all smokers and only let them smoke in a city owned fenced in facility that charges for the privilege? Can I throw up dinner in a dress store so they'll ban eating except in designated fenced in pay-to-eat facilities, open only when the city can pay for an attendant?

No. How ridiculous. Too many people participate in these activities for the city council to buckle to merchant stupidity.

Huh? What did I say? Do I think skaters and cyclists should break the store's glass? No. That's what businesses have insurance for, and perhaps whoever broke the glass is liable for negligence, I don't know. That's what we have small claims court for. But remember that accidents happen and it is part of doing business. It's part of doing life.

Do I think that kids hanging out in front of a store might scare away some customers? Sure! I get scared every time I go to the Chinese food buffet! But believe me, I still go for that hot and sour soup and crab rangoon!

There are ways to handle a problem with people blocking access to a particular business, and grinding rails or destroying marble monuments is not an inalienable right, but a little communication can help in most cases.

Remember taking a walk down to the corner store to get a drink or some ice cream as a kid? Just a little excuse to get out and do something and burn off some energy and maybe see some friends? Surely you do!

I see lots of skaterboys and skatergirls just getting from one place to another, the same way I, as a middle-aged adult, do on my skates. I don't do any tricks unless you consider skating 30 to 60 miles or more in a day a worthwhile trick for a weekend.

[One woman] pointed out that her son frequently rides his bicycle to Commerce Drug Co. and Little Italy for lunch and suggested that her family sometimes does the same. "We couldn’t ride our bicycles to Commerce Drugs for lunch, right?" she asked.

Next comes the "isolate them" solution, just like the Nazis used. Oh yeah the USA does that. Just make them a special place and keep them there: 

"There has been talk of building a skateboard park or type thing, but we have not settled on a place or applied for any grants," he said. "We understand there is some grant money to do these-type things. We are in the process now, since we are going to do this, we need to put them somewhere."

Since when does every single activity have to take place in some fenced in monkey grounds? These same people would bemoan the rise of video games and the epidemic of overweight kids, and they'd go on and on when they want your vote about upholding family values and how life just ain't how it used to be. That's right!

Kids used to play in the streets and make room for cars when they had to, and car drivers watched for them and accommodated their childhood play! Now the cars rule and don't make room for anybody else, even other cars...or emergency vehicles!

Kids are the first to lose their personal freedoms (and adults not part of large groups are soon to follow) like being able to play stick ball instead of dolled-up-uniforms-like-the-pros baseball. Make it where kids can't play "pickup" games, and they won't! They'll stay inside and XBox it and not get to know any of their closest neighbors, and you can give up your running or tennis to drive them across town in your SUV to meet their preapproved preselected playmates on the pristine fields sponsored by fine upstanding local merchants advertising on the outfield fences, just like in the pros.

But here's a thought. If your city has not completely solved your problems with domestic violence, homelessness, graffiti, drug addiction, alcoholism, bribery, extortion, murder, rape, assault, robbery, pollution, soil erosion, and how about hunger, why not let these kids do their thing?

Just because you can assert your power does not mean you should. If you must keep some power, make them wear helmets while you show them you wear one too, and let them exercise, and let kids and adults enjoy the downtown business district and spend their money there.  

Kids will spread money around like germs if you give them the right stuff in the right way! You do know that, right?

If they endanger people, give them a ticket. If they damage stairs and rails and break glass or anything like that, give them a ticket. If they block entrances, warn them, then ticket them.

Teach them a lesson, but please don't teach them the wrong lesson. They're watching, and not just what you do about skaters, but your pals, adults, who go around making mistakes and hoping not to pay for them...first offense and all that.

Let's back off a little because the kids out skating in public are not as much the ones I worry about. There are worse things than working out and honing skills through discipline and hard work. Just as the one mom said:

"My son, 11, signed a citation without me being there that he cannot be on these premises for five years," she said, after telling the council that on previous occasions police officers had told the skateboarders that use of the parking lot was okay.

"I know skateboarders may have a bad reputation, but my child is a good kid," Mrs. Haggard stated. "He’s a good kid and he enjoys being with his friends in Commerce, and as far as I know, they have not hurt anyone or caused any problems that I know of, and if he did, I’ll be glad to tear up his tail for you."

One brilliant councilmember tried to grind a rail politically, saying:

while he had concerns about the ordinance (which he voted to approve), "after tonight I am even more concerned."

I love it when our leaders say, "I don't like this war, but I'm going to vote for it." It just kinda gives me a creepy feeling.

Another coucilmember spread out a brilliant piece of hooey:

"I don’t want the kids to think we are down on them or against skateboarding," he said.

Let's see. I'm going to vote to ban your activity entirely within my jurisdiction, no matter how responsibly you would like to participate in it, and I am going to refer to you by your sport, not as an individual, but I don't want you to think I am down on you or anything.

Why not add, "some of my best friends are skaters!"

I feel for the downtown businesses of Commerce GA, but you know what, I feel for me too. Business is tough. Having a job is tough. Life is tough.

Being a kid is tough when you don't happen to like the sports the grownups want you to like.

Please, Commerce GA, and please, the rest of you fine little towns and big cities, can you just understand? Give tickets, educate and be an example for safety. But support kids and adults who want to exercise and who want to avoid driving to go places but would rather get their by their own muscle power.

Oh and one more thing! We inline roadskaters (and probably most skateboarders when on their boards) don't really want to be on the sidewalk where we scare walkers and ourselves. We want to be on the road, nice and safely, and if you let car drivers know we belong there and they are responsible for treating us like a vehicle, they might slow down. Things might actually be a bit safer. You never know.

Ticket the bad, skaters, cyclists and drivers who don't respect them.

More importantly, REWARD the good.

By the way. Savannah, GA, specifically protects the right to skate in the historic squares of the beautiful city. Skating is specifically allowed on the National Mall in Washington, DC (just not in the monuments). Where would you rather spend your money? Just as importantly, where would your kids rather spend  your money?

Skateylove, y'all.

Blake

Comments

eebee's picture

Action? Make a Difference?

What's particularly frustrating to me about what Blake has written here is that it's probably only going to preach to the choir. My hope- and helplessness surrounding this theme, whether in Commerce, GA or any other place (ok mostly in GA), prevent me from seeing how to actually do something about this. Some of my ideas in the past:

 

- Find out what it would take to get paved trails installed. Everywhere.

 

failing that:

 

- Devise an Inline-Roadskating Proficiency Test and License, which would test people's balance/stability, braking ability, rules of the road knowledge, and ability to avert accidents due to others or themselves. Have 'em run over sticks, rocks, tar snakes, avoid a red pick up truck that swings out in front of them, etc. Somehow we would figure out how to collaborate with the local police, starting in typical downtowny type places where the traffic should at least be slower, promising only road-proficient skaters in exchange for police tolerance, if not protection when it comes to motor vehicles. These licenses wouldn't be as Mickey Mouse as getting a driver's license is here in the US for immigrants (I was one and I've been through that). They would require real skill. While we're at it, how 'bout something I've always wanted to see required as part of a regular driver's license: a common sense test! Do you realize how many people would be off the roads if they had to pass one of those?

 

Not being a chip off the ol' block, my son did not retreat into learned helplessness, and actually did something about his alarm over car emissions and polution, and wrote to the GA Governor, telling him to put in paved trails at least 50 feet from the roads for safety, so that people could bike, walk or skate to work, etc. What cracked me up was the way he ended the letter:

 

"...I know this seems like alot, but it is the future of this state, country, and world at stake. If there are any problems, please e-mail me back.

William,

age twelve"

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