of an Inline Skating Charge in Cleveland
How One Skater Fought the
Law... and Won!
In some places, inline skating is illegal. This isn't to say inline
skates have been outlawed, but rather certain antiquated prohibitions
against using tiny metal-wheeled rollerskates in traffic haven't been
updated to accommodate new skating technology which includes stable
boots, smooth-riding wheels, and brakes. After getting a skating ticket
in his hometown, Cleveland Heights skater Lawrence Minadeo fought the
law and won. His success is a textbook example of how you too can help
update the law and take back the streets.
This is his testimony, starting with the 50+ year-old law he challenged.
311.03 TOY VEHICLES ON STREETS.
No person on roller skates, or riding in or by means of any skateboard,
coaster, toy vehicle, or similar device, shall go upon any roadway
except while crossing a street on a crosswalk, or unless the same has
been set aside for playground purposes.
(Ord. 30 - 1941. Passed 9-15-41)
Ohio Skate Crusader Lawrence Minadeo
"It's no crime to skate. It's progress!" --Lawrence
Saturday, September 4, 1999, Labor Day weekend I, Lawrence Martin
Minadeo was ticketed by a police officer while inline skating on a
residential street within the city limits of Cleveland Heights. The
time was approximately 6:00 pm and there was little to no traffic at
the time. The officer that ticketed me stated I was in direct violation
of Ordinance 311.03. The officer gave no further explanation to me,
insisting that I use the sidewalks for inline skating. Upon receipt of
the ticket I noticed it stated the "toy vehicle in street" as the
active violation enforceable by the 311.03 ordinance. I have been well
aware of the ordinance 311.03 for seven years now as a resident and
homeowner in Cleveland Heights. I have been using my five wheel inline
skates in Cleveland Heights on the city roadways three to five days a
week for seven years as my alternative means of conveyance. My first
objection to this ticket is the appropriateness of enforcing a
prohibition of inline skates on the city roadways with an archaic,
boilerplate 311.03 ordinance where there is no specific mention of the
means of conveyance I was using in the ordinance, that of a five wheel
inline skate. To infer that an inline skate is a similar device would
imply that the framers of this ordinance looked fifty years ahead to
the advancement of technology and the invention of the inline skate in
the year 1990.
This ordinance was written and
passed in 1941. In 1941 the roller skate as mentioned in the traffic
code was a toe pinch roller skate. This toe pinch roller skate had no
boot, no cast precision bearings, used metal wheels, and lacked any
braking method. In fact, all the devices mentioned: roller skates,
skateboards, coasters, and toy vehicles were devices designed for
recreational use only and share common traits. These devices are slow
moving and impede the flow of traffic when used in the street, and they
have little or no maneuverability at higher speeds and are without any
braking methods or braking hardware. I use my inline skates as a safe,
ecologically sound alternative to the use of my car. My ability to
control both the speed and direction with my inline skates is similar
to that of a bicyclist. In many instances, I travel at the marked
speeds for traffic on these roadways. I utilize all the safety gear
that a bicyclist would use. When I was stopped and given this ticket I
was equipped with a bright orange vest, a helmet, and protective hand
gear. When I inline skate at night I maintain high visibility with a
petzl headlamp which attaches to my helmet for oncoming traffic and I
also utilize a blinking red "hot-dot" placed on my backside for traffic
which flows from behind. I take every reasonable precaution to signal
other vehicular traffic of my presence on the roadway. I also obey the
traffic codes established for motorists and bicyclists.
It may be the intention of the City of Cleveland Heights to prohibit
the use of inline skates on the city's roadways but as to date there is
no law or ordinance that directly states such a prohibition or ban.
There is an ordinance passed in 1941, which prohibits toy like devices
incapable of high speed, maneuverability and the ability to quickly
stop, from using the city roadways. These devices are specifically
mentioned. To make it very clear what constitutes a toy vehicle; the
ending clause reveals where it would be acceptable for these devices to
be used -a space or area that is specifically "set aside for playground
purposes". I contend that the clause "similar devices" cannot be
reasonably applied to today's inline skate technology because the
inline skate has proven to be a safe, fast, and highly maneuverable
means of transportation for about 30 million skaters within the United
States alone. It is a transportation alternative for the Amish
community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
My second concern with the city's enforcement of the 311.03 ordinance
against my use of an inline skate on the city roadway is directed
towards the city prosecutor. Is it lawful for a city prosecutor to be
the sole party responsible for determining whether an invention is a
conveyance or a toy? Short of practicing law what qualifications would
a trial attorney have in determining the suitability of a given means
of conveyance and its proper respect to the requirements for its
acceptance on the city roadways? Isn't this question more appropriately
answered by the city's legislative body?
I cite an enacted substitute ordinance (No. SO98-1352) amending Title
12 and Title 13 of the Metropolitan Code of Nashville and Davidson
County to regulate the use of roller skates and inline skates. Why?
Because it was determined to be in the best interest of the
Metropolitan Government to delete the current section 180 of its
traffic code written and enacted over forty years ago with respect to
its "toy vehicle in street" prohibitions. In essence, redefining and
regulating the use of roller skates and inline skates for means of
conveyance upon city roadways. While inline skating in Cleveland
Heights for these seven years I have maintained and met every condition
for compliance with regards to this newly revised code for Nashville
and Davidson County. Have not my years as an avid inline skater on the
city roadways of Cleveland Heights set a precedent, which acknowledges
no enforceable offense?
My search for other discarded 311.03 "toy vehicle" ordinances prompted
another more serious question. In the City of Cleveland Heights this
violation charged against me is punishable by time served in jail. It
is a fourth degree misdemeanor. The ticket fine can exceed $200.00
dollars. This fine served against one accused of using a toy vehicle in
the street. This quite possibly could exceed a man or woman's daily
wage. It most certainly exceeds mine. This, I think is unconscionable.
Seemingly so did the Board of Supervisors in the county of Santa Clara
in the state of California with its decision to limit fines levied
against inline skaters with its Sec.B5-35: Penalty ordinance. Another
case of ineffective skate laws and "toy vehicle" prohibitions being
revoked and replaced is in the city of Annapolis, Maryland.
In Annapolis, the newly revised Ordinance No. O-25-96 (effective July
8, 1996) states the credo of any responsible inline skater:
Sec. 12.48.020 A.
"A person may not ride on or use any non-motorized wheeled vehicle in a
negligent manner on any public street, alley sidewalk or way in the
city of Annapolis. For purposes of this section, a person is guilty of
negligent riding or using a non-motorized wheeled vehicle if the person
rides or uses the non-motorized vehicle in a careless or imprudent
manner that endangers any property or the life, safety or person of any
This ordinance is cited because within Sec. 1248.030 Violation; penalty
new precedents are established for possible fines and levies against
the inline skate community when convicted of negligent use of the city
roadways. I add at this point, and staunchly deny, any negligence while
using the city roadways. The ticket given to me was not for a rate of
speed, or recklessness. In observance of the traffic codes within
Cleveland Heights my ticket is not even a moving violation. It is about
the prohibition of toys being used outside of a crosswalk, or area set
aside for playground purposes.
I would like to mention that previous to residing in Cleveland Heights,
I had lived in downtown Cleveland, for the purpose of being close to my
alma mater from which I subsequently graduated. I freely used the city
roadways of Cleveland proper without any hindrance or harassment from
local authorities using any anti-skate laws. Currently, one of the
popular courier services in Cleveland - Quicksilver employs couriers
whose sole method of transport and delivery are inline skates. The last
mention concerning my inline skating in downtown Cleveland is the
opening day of Gateway Arena including Gund Arena and the sanctioned
race held on the streets of downtown Cleveland. The Greater Cleveland
Sports Commission hosted a 10K inline Skating Race, which utilized many
of the downtown streets including the last leg skirting by the
work-in-progress construction of the Rock Hall. Hundreds of people
participated. I won first place.
My inline skates are not toys, and they are not a similar device to the
toy(s) mentioned in the 311.03 ordinance. They are a clearly definable
means of conveyance, which can safely, and without harm and hindrance
to other vehicular and pedestrian traffic move on the city's roadways.
An experienced inline skater is capable of stopping on clear, dry
pavement from a speed of 10 miles per hour within a braking distance of
twenty-five feet. In many states these are the minimum requirements for
the legal use of bicycles on the city roadways. I promote positive
legislative change that amends these outdated anti-skate ordinances. I
would like to help and inform the court and council of the ways other
cities have encouraged people to live healthy, and to "blade" safely,
well within the confines of the law. It's no crime to skate. It's
RESULT (from an email from Lawrence Minadeo):
"The materials [the IISA] sent were very helpful.... I received a
complete dismissal and a precedent has been set as to the
constitutional question of enforcing an outdated 311.03 anti-skate law.
I won my attempt to dismiss. Now I am looking to have the law changed."