Skateboarders who glide through downtown St. Petersburg are probably unaware they are breaking the law. But a ban enacted two decades ago makes it illegal to skateboard between the waterfront and 16th Street from Fifth Avenue South to Fifth Avenue North.
As the Tribune’s Christopher O’Donnell reports, violators face a $93 fine.
A lot has changed in the past 20 years, when skateboarders prowled the streets looking for railings and ledges to show off their skills, damaging property and putting themselves and others at risk.
Today, college students and others use longer skateboards as a form of transportation, gliding from home to school or to visit friends or run errands. Studs bolted onto ledges and other smooth surfaces deter the practice, as well as signs marking areas as off-limits to skateboarders.
City Council member Karl Nurse thinks its time to lift the ban, and we agree.
“As a city that is trying to encourage innovation and its creative class, I would suggest we eliminate this prohibition,” Nurse told city council members on Thursday. His proposal will now be studied by a subcommittee before a council vote on the idea.
Council member Wengay Newton raised a valid concern about a return to bands of skateboarders roaming the streets. Outdoor diners and strollers along Central Avenue and Beach Drive should not have to encounter irresponsible skateboarders.
But private property owners and the city can establish rules that prohibit reckless behavior without having to enforce an outright ban on an activity that has evolved for many young people into a cheap way to get from point A to point B.
Enrollment at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, on the south end of downtown, now stands at about 6,000, with 500 of them living on campus. And the city’s downtown population will grow by thousands this year as several major apartment projects are completed.
USF St. Petersburg student Allen Holland told O’Donnell that he paid $130 for a longboard to get around campus and the city. He didn’t know he was breaking the law when he headed north past Fifth Avenue.
“Banning it on the sidewalks is too much,” he said.
St. Petersburg is well on its way to shedding its image as a sleepy retirement town. Lifting the downtown skateboarding ban should be part of that natural evolution.