Not too long ago, I was driving my car through downtown Bellingham, traveling on North Forrest. When I approached Magnolia Street, I was following a skateboarder on the road. Though he was trying to stay on the side of the lane, as the street sloped downwards, he gained momentum. His graceful weaving became more pronounced until he was completely taking over the lane. He nearly ran into the car traveling next to him when he was going so fast that he could no longer stay in the far lane. I saw three different sets of brake lights go on in a chain reaction dodging him. It was clear he was out of control, skating beyond his ability and on a road surface he shouldn’t have been on in the first place.
This guy was lucky, but many skateboarders in such a tricky situation are not. In fact, according to SkateboardSafety.com: http://skateboardsafety.org/
“Skateboarding is an activity in which you move quickly over hard surfaces. It can lead to injuries that range from minor cuts and bruises to catastrophic brain injury. Each year in the United States, skateboarding injuries cause about 50,000 visits to emergency departments and 1500 children and adolescents to be hospitalized. (Source: AAP, March 2002. )”
This is why it’s illegal for skateboarders to travel in the roadway. In fact, under Washington State Law, skateboarders, along with people in wheelchairs or scooters, are all considered pedestrians http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.04.400.
Therefore, this particular skateboarder was breaking several rules. He was supposed to be on the sidewalk, and if there were no sidewalk (which was not the case) then he is expected to travel on the roadway, facing the flow of traffic, and move off the roadway when an oncoming car approaches. As you can imagine, this gets a little problematic because skateboarders can travel a lot faster than someone can walk, much less run; they are more like bicycles in this way but aren’t supposed to be in bike lanes, either. The gravel skateboarders often encounter in bike lanes don’t make for safe skateboarding. These laws are intended to keep everyone as safe as possible. Essentially, the law intended to communicate and enforce the idea that roadways and sidewalks are meant for transportation, not recreation.
If this skateboarder had collided with a car, sorting out that case would have been a headache but nothing compared to the headache he would have walked away with – assuming he lived.
For more on particular city ordinances that impact skateboarders in Bellingham, on Western’s campus, and in Fairhaven, click here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/traffic/rules-of-the-road/article54889650.html
I work with injured people who have been hurt by someone else’s negligence. If you’ve been in a car accident, and you don’t believe it was your fault, call me. If you’ve got any questions and want to come in for a free consultation about your case, you can reach me through this contact form, http://billcoatslaw.com/contact-bellingham-lawyer-bill-coats or call 360-392-2833.