Mike Vallely, professional skater, once stated, The skatepark is their common ground and because of that there is a level of respect amongst all the different participants who can make use of the varied terrain of a skatepark. This is always something great to see and to be a part of whether its at a skatepark or in some other facet of our society. At the same time and what Ive found to be much more common, as it also is in our greater society, is division, hatred and violence at skateparks between these young people who do these different sports. Seeing this anywhere in society is sickening but at a skatepark especially amongst young people really turns my stomach. I grew up in a world that didnt have public skateparks or any kind of publicly designated area for skating and so I guess Ive always thought of the possibility of a skatepark being a sort of utopian landscape, (Mike Vallely). He said this after witnessing first hand the reality of how skateparks actually function. The development of skateparks was believed to be an advancement for the freestyle biking community when in reality, it led to BMX Riders encountering troubles with their peers, the law, and members of their local community.
The freestyle biking community is made up of all the BMX Riders throughout the country. BMX Riders are anyone who rides a twenty or twenty-four inch stunt bicycle. This group is stunt bike specific because stunt bicycles are made of stronger, more durable materials in order to withstand the abuse it receives by kids doing tricks on it. Within these standards are over one million BMX Riders throughout the country and over seven million throughout the world (Access BMX). A website about the history of BMX stated, BMX freestyle is a rapidly growing sport and is clearly more popular than other sports that already have public facilities (BMX Riders Organization). The rapid growth of BMX occurred primarily through the late 1980s and into the early 1990s and is starting to happen again in the year 2003.
BMX started in the early 1970s, and since then it has developed from doing basic tricks on flat ground to riders doing big, difficult tricks on any terrain (Why Build a Skatepark?). Because of the development of BMX to ride on any terrain it leads to new problems. BMX Riders tend to ride in the street which has allowed them to coin the term street riding. The problem with this is that they will use anything they can find such as curbs, stairs, benches, ledges, handrails, loading docks, etc (Benicia Skatepark Resources). This leads to BMX Riders encountering trouble with police in the form of receiving tickets. This also leads to BMX Riders damaging private property and creating turmoil between them and fellow members of the community. In order to provide a solution to this, skateparks should be created to get bikes off the street and into a safer, legal environment.
A skatepark is a collection of ramps, meaning a public or private place with many ramps for kids to use. On average they cost about $100,000 to $200,000 dollars for a small park (Skatepark Essay). They are also a place where it is legal for kids to inline skate, skateboard, and BMX. The first skateparks were opened in both Romford and South Sea, England in the early 1970s for local skateboarders to use (Access BMX). To this day both skateparks are still in immaculate condition.
One reason that these original skateparks are still in good condition is because they are made of cement. Cement is extremely durable; however, over time the materials that are being used in skateparks have changed. Today they are being made in a variety of materials such as wood, metal, or other special materials like skatelite. Skatelite is a durable mix of abaca fibers and hemplite. Abaca fibers come from the abaca banana plant and hemplite is made from hemp fibers. Together these form a strong material which makes a good ramp surface. Utilizing the new, stronger materials for ramps in turn allows the ramps to last longer (Skatelite).
There are a few advantages to having skateparks, especially if they are going to last for a while. One advantage is that they give kids a safe and legal place to have fun. Another advantage is that they provide children to have a place to go and exercise. A study on youth obesity by the Center for Disease Control said that one out of eight American kids is suffering from obesity and another one out of five is overweight (BMX Riders Organization). Included in this study was a list of healthy activities they suggested for kids to participate in and on this list was bike riding. As children are growing up they have access to playgrounds to help develop their neuro-motor skills and aid in their early development; however, outside organized team sports little is provided for adolescents to support their development (Why Build a Skatepark?). When these adolescents have access to a skatepark it gives them somewhere to continue their development without getting into trouble which is another advantage to having skateparks. Yet with all these advantages they are still thought of to be problematic for multiple reasons.
The main reason skateparks are looked down upon is because cities think that a skatepark will lead to legal issues. They are afraid of being held liable if kids are injured. Another problem is that all skateparks are different (Skatepark Essay). Some skateparks are constructed well to allow its users to have fun while others are just built for the town to say it has a skatepark even if it is small and boring. That directly relates to the next problem, cost, because skateparks can be expensive to build and maintain. Although these are believed to be the three leading reasons to not creating a skatepark, the reality of these situations and their solutions are known.
One way that the enjoyment of skateparks can be fixed is by incorporating similar objects in different patterns into each skatepark. This will allow kids to able to ride whatever obstacle it is they enjoy. By finding new materials that would not need to be constantly maintained it would give a solution to the cost of skateparks. Most importantly cities need to realize how skateparks really work. BMX, skateboarding, and inline skating are all considered Hazardous Recreational Activities by nearly every state in the country (Access BMX). This means that cities cannot be held liable for what a person does as long as it occurs on public property by someone who is fourteen years or older. In order to ensure they cannot be held liable by anyone else every person who uses a skatepark must sign a waiver stating they cannot hold the company or city liable (BMX Riders Organization). To make this waiver apply the signature must come from either a minors parent or legal guardian or anyone who is eighteen years old or older can sign it themselves; however, these waivers are often denied to BMX Riders.
Skateparks were created for everyone to use, and because of this there are certain things people believe about them. One thing is that they would be a place where both skateboards and bikes would be welcome, as well as that they would be built to accept the abuse that both skateboards and bikes can give it. Another belief is that skateparks would be a place to keep kids off the streets and allow them to have fun with their peers and exercise (Skatepark Essay). Although these are known by the people who create/own the skatepark, the way they handle themselves towards bikes is dramatically different. Yes, skateparks are designed for both skateboards and bikes; however, the majority of them do not allow bikes to be used inside.
This occurs for a few reasons and this leads to problems. One reason this happens is because they feel bikes ruin the ramps inside the skatepark. In other countries such as England, home to the first skateparks, they have let bikes in since their opening in the 1970s and are still in great condition. Also, the Skatepark Association of the USA stated, We have been surveying parks for several years and have not come up with any evidence that they cause anymore wear and tear then skateboarders or inline skaters (Access BMX). Another reason bikes are not allowed is because they feel BMX Riders cannot ride at the same time skateboarders or inline skaters are using the skatepark. Every skatepark posts a list of safety rules and regulations as well as a list of skatepark etiquette that must be followed (Access BMX). If these were enforced like they are supposed to be there would be no problem because the purpose of these two documents is to prevent this very problem. In a quote from fellow peer and inline skater Ben Magaziner, he said that, I like it when bikes are in the park at the same time because they do big tricks which allow me to push myself more then I can when bikes are not there. Because of them not allowing bikes into skateparks it goes against their belief that skateparks are helping keep kids off the streets.
Cities believe that by building skateparks they are getting kids off the streets; when in truth they are only helping skateboarders and inline skaters stay off the streets. They are actually turning some BMX Riders into young criminals. One reason this happens is because when BMX Riders show up at skateparks they are ticketed by local law enforcement and kicked right back out into the street. Besides getting ticketed the BMX Riders are loosing places to ride their bikes (Access BMX). With a lack of places to ride their bike it leaves them more time to experiment with gangs and/or drugs. Another thing that makes BMX Riders feel like criminals is that when they are not being let into the skateparks they proceed to use them anyway. The BMX Riders Organization said it best when they stated:
Discriminating against BMX Riders in your public skatepark guarantees trouble for the local police department. Police resources are better spent fighting real crime rather than ticketing kids for riding their bikes. If you choose to completely exclude BMX riders from your skatepark they will only see your rule as discriminatory and ignore it. These unfair rules can also produce an us against them attitude toward the police and the government (BMX Riders Organization).
This leads to both them getting in trouble as well as developing problems with fellow peers who skateboard or inline skate. Because of this it normally leads to peers fighting or even getting into small wars between skateboarders and BMX Riders.
If skateparks are supposed to be a place where kids can go to have fun and exercise, then how is this helping like they say it is? If BMX Riders are not being let into skateparks and do not have places to ride then they are not allowing them to get a good amount of exercise which leads to more problems with obesity. This is the opposite of what owners/creators of skateparks believe.
Under these circumstances of not letting BMX Riders into skateparks it has many consequences. One major consequence occurs with peers and leading to fights. Another consequence is that BMX Riders start to have bad encounters with the law at young ages both by ticketing them at skateparks and chasing bikers out of their other spots to ride on the street. Lastly and probably most important is that the BMX Riders are developing problems with people in their community. Residents and business owners/workers lose respect for BMX Riders for riding in the streets and on their property. Because of this the community tries to stop biking and this kills the riders chances to amount to something in BMX where as they might not be able to any other way. In order to fix this something must be done
The most noted solution would be to create separate times for skateboards, inline skaters and BMX Riders to use the skate park. By assigning separate times for skateboarding and biking it will make BMX Riders happy to be able to use the skatepark and skateboarders/inline skaters happy they do not have to deal with the BMX Riders. This will resolve the fights and anger between peers, get bikes off the street, make community members happy and satisfy everyones needs.
BMX is just as popular as any other sport out there today. It allows people to have fun as well as to create respectable professional careers out of it. With this in mind why is it that BMX Riders should face different circumstances for using skateparks then anyone else? Why is it that they should be forced to deal with law enforcement for just trying to have a good time? In truth there is no legitimate reason to this. BMX is just as respectable as skateboarding and inline skating and because of this it should be allowed to use the same skateparks and have the same rules and regulations as everyone else.