Skateboard ordinance lowers fines, defines reckless conduct

By Ben Holbrook | Jul 24, 2013
Source: File Image

Belfast — Councilors accepted the first reading of a proposed ordinance regarding skateboarding in the downtown that would lower fines and define reckless conduct.

The proposed ordinance change was brought forth by Councilor Mike Hurley during a meeting Tuesday, July 16. Under the proposed change, fines for riding a skateboard in the downtown would be lowered from $200 to $25. The ordinance change also more clearly identifies the areas in which skateboarders are prohibited from operating.

That area includes all sidewalks within the Route 1 bypass; on Main Street from Congress Street to the Public Landing; and on the Harbor Walk from the Boathouse to the Armistice Foot Bridge.

As councilors read through the proposed amendment, Hurley recalled several instances over the past week when he observed skateboarders behaving in a manner that was dangerous. The first incident occurred when Hurley saw a skateboarder ride past Key Bank down to High Street and then turn in front of a vehicle that was also attempting to turn, Hurley said. The skateboarder then proceeded to ride down the middle of Main Street, Hurley said.

The second incident occurred when Hurley observed a person on a long board ride through Post Office Square before traveling down Main Street. What disturbed Hurley was that the person was riding down Main Street and weaving from the left lane to the right lane repeatedly, he said.

Hurley also said he saw a person on a bicycle ride down Main Street at full speed and ride through the traffic light at the intersection of Main and High Street without stopping. He later commented that the proposed ordinance changes applied only to skateboarders and not to bicyclists. During a previous council meeting, Hurley made comments about people riding bicycles in a manner he considered reckless, which raised the ire of Councilor Eric Sanders.

While councilors were receptive to the proposed changes, Councilor Roger Lee, who had been absent for the previous discussions, suggested removing a paragraph that contained language regarding in what public areas skateboards were allowed. Lee also raised a concern with banning skateboards from the Harbor Walk.

Hurley explained that his primary concern with the Harbor Walk was with the section in Heritage Park where there is a hill. He said skateboarders were using that particular section of the walk “as a race track.” City Planner Wayne Marshall noted that during discussions regarding the use of the Harbor Walk, bicycles and pedestrians were the only approved use. He also commented that skateboarders are prohibited from being on Front Street Shipyard's property.

In addition to defining where skateboarders are not allowed to be, the ordinance amendment includes a definition of reckless conduct. The amendment defines, but does not limit reckless conduct to operating the left or swerving from left to right on any public way; darting in and around stopped or moving vehicles; passing a stop sign at excessive speed; failing to stop at traffic lights; and traveling at excessive speed.

Violating the ordinance would result in a $25 fine. If the fine is not paid within 30 days it increases to $50. If after 60 days the fine is still unpaid, the individual cited would lose the privilege to use their skateboard in the downtown area. If the individual continues to use their skateboard in the downtown after the privilege is revoked, they must surrender their skateboard to the Belfast Police Department for no more than 10 days, according to the amendment.

The proposed changes would go to Attorney Bill Kelly who will draft appropriate legal language. Councilors unanimously accepted the draft amendments as a first reading.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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