Skateboards In Streets Worry Town

Published 4:19 pm Thursday, October 31, 2013

FARMVILLE — Town officials concerned about skateboarders mongo-footing down the street are asking the General Assembly to perform a legislative 180.

Under current state law, skateboarders and roller skaters can legally take to any residential street if the speed limit is 25 mph or less and if they keep to the far right of the road.

The Town wants the Goofy-Foot law McTwisted.

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“Doug and I were talking about it the other day,” Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates told council members in October, referring to a discussion with Police Chief Doug Mooney. “We need the General Assembly to look at this issue with skateboarding. We are having a terrible problem with it. They are perfectly legal to run on the street. If they run a stop sign there’s nothing you can do about it, according to the commonwealth’s attorney.”

Town officials raised the issue directly with State Senator Tom Garrett and House of Delegates member James Edmunds during last week’s legislative luncheon hosted by Prince Edward County.

The Town has no sinister intent toward those who Crooked Grind, Nosegrind or perform Caballerials. A skateboard park was constructed at Wilcks Lake, in fact.

But the intersection of skateboarders and vehicles has proved dangerous on town streets, Farmville officials stress.

“We’ve had two pretty serious accidents in the last six months,” Spates pointed out.

In prepared remarks to legislators, Spates wrote “skateboarding is dangerous enough in a parking lot or a park but on the street is ludicrous. We have had two accidents involving students in the past year at the same intersection of St. George Street and Buffalo Street near the University—at a four-way stop. One student went into the side of a Fed Ex truck and broke his leg; the other ran into the side of the Farmville Area Bus. According to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, no charges could be placed on the two skateboards for running the stop signs.”

Spates told legislators “this is extremely dangerous and it is a distraction to motorists who have enough problems watching for drivers using cell phones and navigating heavy traffic areas.”

Skateboarding is illegal in business districts and on any road with a speed limit over 25 mph, and it is illegal to skateboard down the middle of any street, even in a residential area, regardless of the speed limit.

“If they’re in a business district, or above a 25 mile an hour speed limit, then we can enforce that,” Chief Mooney told town council.

“So it’s legal for them to be in the road?” asked council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon.

“Yep,” Spates answered.

“They need to be as far to the right as possible but they can be on a roadway in a residential area if the speed limit’s 25 or less,” the police chief added. “We had two serious, very serious, (accidents) at the intersection (St. George and Buffalo Streets) and unfortunately there’s really nothing we can do.”

“It’s state law, chief, is that what it is?” queried council member Jamie Davis.

“It is. Our local town ordinance is actually worded…a little ambiguously. We can’t enforce it,” Chief Mooney replied.

Nor can helmets be enforced, which council member Sally Thompson also wants to see addressed by the General Assembly.

“Chief, I see people without helmets riding down the middle of High Street,” Thompson told Chief Mooney.

“That is illegal,” the police chief responded. “They have to be to the far right of the road. But usually when we see them they’re in the far right. And if they’re in a residential area, 25 miles an hour or less, they can be on the roadway.”

“But helmets are required?” asked Thompson.

“No, no, ma’am,” he told her. “…I really don’t know what you can do.”

Though Town officials clearly take the issue seriously, there were some light exchanges during the discussion, with Spates saying officials in Ashland—home to Randolph-Macon College—suggested rumble strips down the middle of the street.

Spates also joked about “radio-controlled spikes” and spoke of increasing speed limits in residential areas to 26 mph.

“So your alternative is to get the General Assembly to change it (the law) or raise the speed limit. Make it 26 (mph). I wonder if you can make it 26?” Spates mused.

“I don’t think you can,” Chief Mooney told him.

When Spates mentioned increasing the speed limit to 30 mph on Buffalo and High Streets, the police chief cautioned, “but then you don’t want people (motorists) running down Buffalo Street at 30 miles an hour.”

“They do it anyway,” the town manager said.

“Twenty-five is fast enough,” said High Street resident Thompson, “on High Street.”