Skateboarders resist restrictions

MUKILTEO – Skateboarders have had a strong response to a call to restrict kids’ use of all wheeled boards to skate parks.

They say skateboard safety is a matter for individuals, not the government.

“Bicycles, roller blades, scooters are all on the street. Why shouldn’t we be?” said Timmy Mitchell, 12, of Mukilteo. He made his comments while skating at the Mukilteo YMCA Skate Park on Thursday.

“I think most of us are responsible skaters who follow traffic laws,” said another skater, Theo Heng, 14, of Mukilteo. “I think we should be able to skate freely but carefully.”

Joe Pyles, 15, of Mukilteo was seriously injured last month when he slammed into a parked sport utility vehicle while riding a longboard down a hill about a mile from his home. Longboards are bigger skateboards that can reach faster speeds.

Doctors estimated that Joe was traveling about 50 mph, based on his injuries. He lost a leg following the accident and remains at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Doctors say he can return home in four to six weeks, his dad, John Pyles, said.

John Pyles has asked the city to require that people younger than 18 use longboards and skateboards only at skate parks.

Mukilteo City Council members recently voted to study his request after some of them spoke with Pyles.

Pyles also wants to see high-visibility warning labels on all longboards.

“What I’m concerned about is getting word out to parents,” he said.

Word of what happened to Joe has spread through the skateboarding community across North America, said Michael Brooke, editor of Concrete Wave, a skateboarding magazine in Toronto, Canada.

Boarders point out that Pyles’ accident occurred after he sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night and while he was riding in the dark. He was traveling too fast for the conditions, they say, and they note that he was not wearing safety gear.

“The community feels terrible for this kid, but it’s like, what was he thinking?” Brooke said.

An anonymous account of Pyles’ accident was posted on Silverfish Longboarding, a Web site dedicated to the activity.

“Again, we ask that all riders ride within your limits, always wear your helmet-pads and learn to slide and foot-brake to control speed,” the site’s staff said.

John Pyles said that’s exactly his point: Kids don’t always make the best decisions.

“A lot of the time they don’t use their brains,” he said. “Joe’s a smart kid, but evidently he didn’t use his, either. When it comes to kids, somebody’s got to stand up for ‘em.”

Protective gear would not have made any difference in the extent of his son’s injuries at 50 mph, he said. “If you get in an accident in a car at 50 mph, you’re going to the hospital,” he said.

Pyles bought the longboard for his son without knowing that they can go considerably faster than a regular skateboard, he said. Longboards also are used in competitions, called speed-boarding.

Skaters said restricting boards to skate parks is not practical.

Some riders use longboards for transportation, and many skaters prefer the street, they said.

“There’s so many skaters in the world and only so many skate parks,” Mitchell said. “If everybody who skated came to the park, the park would be crowded all the time.”

Many cities, including Mukilteo, allow skaters who ride in a “negligent” manner and disobey traffic laws to be fined. Some cities prohibit skateboarding in certain parts of the city.

According to Brooke, who said he researched skateboard laws for his history book, “Concrete Wave,” many American cities banned skateboarding in the 1960s. It didn’t work because kids will always find a way to do it, he said.

“It’s a personal choice,” said skater Ryan Teal, 17, of Mukilteo. “It’s called free will, we all have it.”

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