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Dismissal 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 Minadeo

On 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 individual."

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 progress!

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."


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