Monday, April 22, 2024

Though it may come as a surprise to many, skateboarding is still a crime in downtown Wilmington

Skateboarding in Wilmington is not permitted on sidewalks and streets in the downtown areas (Port City Daily/File)
Skateboarding in Wilmington is not permitted on sidewalks and streets in the downtown areas (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — “Skateboarding is not a crime” — that was the mantra of skateboarders during the 90s as the sport became popular and more and more cities began banning the activity. In Wilmington, it turns out, skateboarding is definitely against the law.

In fact, the Wilmington Police Department gives out citations to those caught skating in the streets or parking decks.

“For skating in the street or skateboarding in the parking decks, WPD issued 29 citations from January 2014 to December 2018; For just the skateboarding in parking decks … WPD issued 6 citations,” WPD spokeswoman Jennifer Dandron said.

But it’s not like the police are simply enforcing the laws for the sake of giving tickets, in fact, Dandron said enforcing the ordinance does not always end with citation.

“WPD enforces all city ordinances, including the skateboarding restrictions, to the best of our ability. However, enforcement does not necessarily mean issuing citations,” Dandron said. “Many people are simply unaware of the skateboarding ordinance, and we take that into consideration when addressing the issue. Oftentimes, we give warnings and talk with the offender. We want everyone to be able to enjoy Historic Downtown Wilmington, but to do so while following the law.”

According to the city ordinance:

 “No person shall operate, ride or use any motive device propelled or designed for propulsion by human power upon any public street, public sidewalk, public park or public vehicular area located in the central business district or upon the Riverwalk. The term “motive device propelled or designed for propulsion by human power” includes: tricycles, coasters, scooters, skateboards, roller skates, roller blades, sleds and wagons, but shall not include bicycles as defined in section 5-1 of the Code (when operated on city streets) and wheelchairs or other devices operated or used by handicapped or disabled persons. For the purposes of this section, the central business district shall be the Central Business Zoning District as established and modified from time to time under chapter 18 of this Code, and that area bounded by the western line of Seventh Street, the southern line of Market Street, the western line of Third Street and the northern line of Chestnut Street. For the purposes of this section, Riverwalk, a public park, is defined in section 7-1.1(a) of this Code.”

For Wilmington Downtown Incorporated’s (WDI) Ed Wolverton, the law is a safety issue.

“The overriding concern is safety. Downtown sidewalks are congested. Pedestrians, sidewalk cafes, tree wells, and sandwich board signs all absorb space. Additionally, as people walk in to and out of stores, they may not immediately see things when stepping out of a building. So, having skateboards, bikes, scooters, etc. using the sidewalk creates a safety problem, especially given the speed that they can move,” Wolverton said.

Although there are safety concerns, Wolverton admits WDI has not done any research as to their use on urban streets.

“WDI has not done any recent research about the safety of skateboard use on urban streets. While we certainly support having a range of mobility options, the community must make sure that there is a safe environment for skateboarders, bikers, pedestrians, and drivers,” he said.

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