Skateboarders threatened, unwelcome on roads finds new study

A 20-year-old Dunedin skateboarder has been left shaken after being chased down by a motorist and abused for riding his board down a North Dunedin street.

Joel Field said he and a friend had to jump off their skateboards to avoid being hit by the vehicle recently.

“We were just skating along the roadside and this dude just pulled up really close to us and was just like, being really aggressive.

“We were on the road and he wasn’t happy about it.”

Fortunately, no-one was injured in the incident.

Field is one of many people who have had similar experiences, new research by the University of Otago has found.

Lead author Dr Aimee Ward, who completed the study while at Otago’s department of preventive and social medicine, said more than half of the teenagers surveyed for the research said they felt unsafe while traveling.

“People who skateboard are classified as vulnerable road users but are often made to feel unwelcome, no matter where they ride.

“New Zealand law states that skateboarders can legally travel on the road, but they are often forced to the footpath where they can threaten the safety of other sidewalk users, and bylaws vary by city.

“Among vulnerable road users, those who cycle and walk tend to be the most vocal in support of their respective causes.

“However, those using other forms of equally vulnerable transport options also need to be considered in transport planning,” Dr Ward said.

She believed cities and towns could come together to formulate policies embracing all vulnerable transport users.

Shared travel spaces, or the redesignation of existing bike lanes and footpaths for multiple use, might help overcome issues of where those who skateboard, in particular, should ride.

Dr Ward’s study also found licensing among young people had dropped dramatically in the past decade.

“It’s not known if this is a permanent change, but it’s important to know that currently, young people are turning to different modes of transport outside of private car use, such as mass transit and active forms like walking, cycling, and skateboarding, as well as other modes such as the use of scooters, car-pooling and car sharing.”

She said this suggested the need for consideration of long-term changes in transport policy and infrastructure, to keep up with the demand for alternate modes of transportation.

Field said he did not have a licence and had no ambition to get one.

“I don’t need a licence. Dunedin’s so small — it’s so easy to get around.

“You don’t have to worry about parking a skateboard and it doesn’t cost anything to fill up with fuel.

“And every time I go somewhere, I’m getting exercise and it’s fun. It’s all rolled into one.

“If I have to go further away, I just get a bus.”

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