Skateboard ban amendments still in limboCouncil to address possible solutions at future meeting
Belfast — Action regarding amending the city's ordinance restricting the use of skateboards in the downtown again was delayed, as concerns about bicycles traveling on sidewalks were also raised.
The city passed an ordinance in 1994 that bans skateboards and roller blades from specific areas in the downtown. Fines for violating the ordinance range between $200 and $350 with additional penalties assessed for subsequent offenses. City Manager Joseph Slocum stated in his report to councilors that scooters could be included in the ban, as well.
Belfast resident Hunter Finden spoke against the skateboard ban and the fines during the June 18 meeting, citing an incident last year when he was fined $231 for riding his skateboard in a banned section of the downtown. He also asked councilors how it's fair that if he isn't hurting anyone he can be assessed such a high fine.
During a meeting June 18, councilors questioned whether the amount of the fines were resulting in police officers enforcing the ordinance less. Councilor Mike Hurley suggested the city could establish a policy that would fine skateboarders who were riding recklessly — weaving in and out of traffic or striking pedestrians.
While councilors agreed that the fines may be too high, further discussion regarding the issue was eventually tabled to the July 2 meeting in order to provide time to consult with McFadden regarding the issue.
At the July 2 meeting, Hurley said he had communicated with Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden about possible options for dealing with the ordinance via email. While nothing was decided, Hurley said suggestions ranged from lowering the fines to banning skateboards and bicycles from sidewalks. Hurley also reiterated the possibility of establishing a “reckless conduct” policy that would allow police to penalize people who were operating a skateboard in a manner that was not safe.
McFadden commented that establishing a reckless conduct policy is difficult to enforce because it becomes a matter of judgment. Hurley then asked McFadden what he does if a bicyclist is riding “like crazy.” McFadden replied that he has given warnings to bicyclists, but also noted that the fines for bicycle violations, which are essentially the same as those governing vehicles, are much less than the skateboard fines.
He continued by suggesting that he felt it would be appropriate to ban skateboards from the Harbor Walk, citing an example a few weeks ago when he and his wife were in Heritage Park on the path. As they were walking, McFadden said a group of skateboarders were riding towards them when he asked them to stop. Some of the skateboarders “bailed” off of their skateboards while others shot past him. He said their inability to stop in a controlled manner is a concern.
If councilors couldn't support such a ban, McFadden suggested prohibiting skateboards from any non-level areas of the Harbor Walk. He further suggested that such a ban could be extended to include a ban on non-level roads in the downtown.
As discussion continued, Councilor Sanders asked to speak before asking when bicycles were being lumped together with skateboards as a safety issue.
“I'm a little offended. Maybe because I almost got killed, but I would back off right now because I'm really upset that we're trying to tie bicycles and skateboards together,” Sanders said.
Hurley said people who ride bicycles “at speed” on the sidewalks are part of the issue and it needed to be considered.
“It is part of the problem,” Hurley said. “It's a safety issue.”
Discussion ceased following a comment from Slocum that the issue could be brought back to a future meeting, as no established proposals were presented at the meeting to address the issue.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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