Skateboarding is growing in popularity and it is far and away the most popular urban sport with a not insignificant industry behind it. Skateboarders are unique in seeing not just a purpose for many urban scapes the majority of the population would loathe, but having a passion for these places also.
In Paris there is a rapidly growing use of roller blades, skateboards and push scooters for commuting purposes. Also there are places in Paris where skaters have become a symbol of the landscape itself the Jardins du Trocadéro is a prime example, where daily skaters gather to show off their skills to the tourists.
The UK has an enviable reputation in the Skateboarding world, generating many stars who remain largely unheard of outside the UK skateboarding fraternity but are almost household names in California and elsewhere. Skateboarding is not a fad, it is here to stay.
There are few other activities which incite so much vitriol, but headlines such as ‘Grandma killed by Skateboard yobs’ have not happened. The occasional annoyed pedestrian is surely a small price to pay for a sport which brings colour, skills and life back into the concrete jungle. A sport which allows youth in some of our most depressed areas to excel and in fact increases the worth of the place itself, rather than with footballers who are shipped off to Cheshire mansions. A sport which sees groups of harmless youths inevitably policing depressed areas simply by their presence.
I don’t have much reason to think about skateboarders in terms of my work. There was once a time when I was asked to write a comment in favour of banning skateboarders as they were a risk to urban tree planting – but it was impossible to justify this, skateboards cannot get close enough to trees to damage them, there is much more of a risk from mobility scooters and pedestrians. In fact planting urban trees would diminish areas to skateboarders.
The sheer hatred of skateboarders has convinced some council’s to liaise directly with the skaters and provide ‘honeypot’ schemes in urban green space, as skateboarding is such a visible youth activity the NIMBY’s who complain about it should be made more aware of what is going on behind their backs and the true problems disenfranchised youth has to deal with, rather than councils simply pandering to such vitriol.
But as urban regeneration schemes continue to destroy the skateboarders habitat, Landscape Architects are using tricks to deliberately thwart skateboarders, surely this is simply unfair and very shortsighted. And shouldn't we in fact be encouraging more skateboard friendly landscape design into our urban communities to encourage this sport?
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