Should people on skateboards and roller skates in Portland have to wear helmets? A mandatory, all-ages helmet law is part of a draft of the new skate ordinance city council will consider next week.
Portland currently has some of the most progressive skate laws in the country, granting skateboarders the same rights on the road as cyclists. But as downhill longboarding in the city has exploded in the past couple years, residents of the Arlington Heights neighborhood have been pushing city council to outlaw skateboarding on the steep streets around Washington Park. Earlier this summer, council put off voting on a skate ban until September, opting to educate skaters and crack down on bad behavior rather than trying to ban the activity altogether.
Over the past few months, skaters, neighbors, police, and city planners have hashed out this new ordinance, as well as putting together a campaign called Skate Friendly PDX that includes a pretty hilarious safety video.
In addition to the helmet law, the policy increases the maximum traffic ticket for a skater from $25 to $250 and bans skating on the controversial SW Portland streets from 10pm to 7am. That's no-night-skating change is actually a move that skaters involved in the process support.
“Each side has to give for people to be happy,” says downhill skater Billy “Bones” Meiners, who helps run the Skate Friendly PDX campaign. “Skateboarders aren’t going to leave, but the least we can try to be respectful and not noisy. We have to work with the neighbors.”
But the helmet law is a bad move, say Meiners and other skaters, who say they'll fight the proposal at council if the helmet law language isn't struck. He also takes issue with the language in the ordinance that spells some rules for how to skateboard, like riding single-file and saying that "no person shall operate a skateboard recklessly or in such a manner or at such a speed as to cause or threaten to cause injury to himself." Portland currently requires helmets for all people on bikes and skateboards who are under 16.
“I think helmets are a great idea, but helmet laws are very foolish,” says Meiners.