Clubs as a Political Force
What do walking across a street on your hands, growing a goatee, and
inline skating have in common? Well, depending on where you are, any
one of these activities could land you in the pokey, as there are
statutes which prohibit these acts. While it is comically absurd that
certain laws remain on the books long after they have become
irrelevant, when it comes to inline skating, antiquated "toy vehicle"
prohibitions are no laughing matter.
Due to fundamental misperceptions of inline skating, an increasing
number of communities have chosen to enforce anti-skate laws, the
overwhelming majority of which were drafted decades before inline
skates as we know them today were invented. Nonetheless, that doesn't
prevent the authorities from enforcing the code in response to isolated
incidents of loitering or vandalism by a tiny minority of miscreants
who happen to be on inline skates.
results in cases when a skate ban is enforced is a two-fold
misunderstanding of the situation. First, the real problem is not
inline skates, but a lack of activities and facilities for those
interested in wheeled sports such as inline skating and skateboarding.
And second, since the problem is misunderstood, is it any wonder that
the solution - an across-the-board skate ban - is also faulty? Of the
17 million Americans who skated in 2004, most were people just like you
and me, who were interested in exercising, socializing and having a
good time. But if you're serious about inline skating, it's not enough
to exercise your legs: you also have to exercise your rights to correct
the misperception that inline skaters are somehow bad for a community.
Skate clubs are more than just a great way to meet people and have fun;
they can also be instrumental in protecting one's right to the road. A
skate club can be as simple and loosely organized as a half-dozen
friends who go for a weekly skate, with no purpose other than to have
fun. This is great in itself--until those six friends are arrested for
violating a ban about which they knew nothing. The more significant
role of a skate club is to give a strong political voice to a town's
inline skaters. By incorporating and giving something back to the
community, a skate club helps not only to ensure the right to the road
for its members, but for all skaters.
The best part is that it only takes a few dedicated individuals with
activist spirits to organize a club. From the members, very little is
expected other than enthusiasm for the sport. What members get in
return is the chance to socialize, compete and keep up to date on the
skating scene, as well as the satisfaction of giving something back to
their community in the form of events and promotion of a healthy
Bob Hoysgaard is an
inline skating activist and member of Ft. Lauderdale's New River