When scooters are outlawed…

only outlaws will be children? (no wait, that didn’t work). All I can say is “Wow!” or is that “WTF?” I get my emphatic three-letter “W” words mixed up.

The council must have been in quite a hurry to get to the budget last night because that’s the only excuse I can come up for how the council could got into a discussion on banning skateboarding in a parking garage (not a terrible idea) and vote unanimously to ban bkes, skateboards, scooters and ALL muscular powered vehicles [edited due to non-clarity as to the inclusion of scooters and the exact wording regarding muscular powered vehicles. While the council discussion included discussions of scooters, it is possible that scooters may fall under the category of “toys” and not be included in this change. As mentioned below in the comments, it appears that trikes will not be banned by this change] from all city parks unless the city puts up signs saying it’s “permitted.”

That’s right, every child under the age of 12 are slated to become criminals as soon as they enter Alameda’s parks on their trikes, scooters, skateboards, etc. People can no longer ride bikes slowly through the park on the way to the playground. Kids and adults interested in using any form of skateboard or scooter should stick to the city sidewalks. Period.

When my son heard this, he got out of bed to tell me that he thought it was ridiculous (I think I was ranting on the phone!). It’s so cute when the lowercase sd+r’s get worked up about city policy!

The council actually discussed this without a single dissenting word. Not one person said, “Are we sure that banning bikes and scooters from the parks is a good idea?” The City Attorney made a small attempt to point out the lack of necessity in making this change based on the fact that the current ordinance has been problem free for ages, but no one was going to hear her.

The mayor, a newbie bicyclist, actually said she feels that people should expect that the norm is that biking and skateboarding and scootering are not allowed in public spaces. And that the city should have to go out of their way to grant approval for these activities.

Not once did anyone justify this needed ban. No one talked about complaints about bikes in the parks, or skateboards, or scooters. Just “hey let’s ban ‘em!” met with a resounding “hell yeah!” with possibly a “yeehaw!” tossed in for good measure.

Apparently, there’s a HUGE concern about the number of signs it’s going to take to ban scootering in the city’s parks, even though until today, it was perfectly legal to do ride them in the parks. This was discussed! They actually talked about how putting up all these signs banning bikes and skateboards and scooters would create a visual mess. So let’s just ban it outright and put up a few “scooters “ok”” signs in select parks.

Not that this wasn’t draconian enough, but the Mayor also asked city staff to see if the park’s department staff (meaning the teens and on-site staff who work in the parks) could be deputized to actually write tickets to offending people. Because the police aren’t going to have the time to give out all the tickets that are going to need to be handed out once this law goes into effect. You’re not dreaming and I’m not kidding.

Not too sound like a grouchy bike advocate, but I can’t ignore the sheer irony at the fact that both Rittler, Leydecker and Lincoln parks allow people to drive their cars in them so that people can avoid shlepping things an extra 50-70 feet, but by golly, we’ve got to stop people biking. They might annoy someone!

And if that weren’t enough, what’s with bringing forward an issue about skateboards in the parking garage and turning around and tacking on a bunch of prohibitions that weren’t mentioned in the staff report? I don’t want to suggest that this may have violated the Brown Act, but it’s definitely dancing along a thin line. I don’t believe that anyone came to the meeting with the intention of making these changes, I think they were spur of the moment and that’s why they should have been brought back to another meeting. (For goodness sake, the staff report specifically said that the police can ticket skateboarders in the garage for loitering and tresspassing. There was no rush needed.)

My memory is that changes to the city’s Municipal Code need to go through a second reading before becoming adopted. But at this point, I wouldn’t bet money on what my memory tells me. (please, someone who knows something, correct me!)

In the spirit of children’s entertainment, I’ll suggest the council call for a “do over” and bring this back whether a second reading is called for or not.

Like I said, I’m going to chalk this one up to “bigger things on their mind” and hope they see the light of reason quickly and bring back language that addresses the actual concerns that they want to address. Those concerns are reckless riding (just like reckless driving). A family riding through Washington Park to get to the playground should be (and currently is) able to slowly cruise the wide paths to the playground. The issue is a few people riding like idiots and making like uncomfortable for walkers and families, so write the code to reflect that. If there are parks that need to ban skateboarding and biking all together, then make that decision in a public meeting.

This is another recent example of rushing an issue that involves bicycling/alternative modes and coming up with a bad product unnecessarily. These issues need to slow down and be discussed. Family friendly towns don’t start banning skateboarding, scootering and biking in parks without public input.

Write the council at: alamedacitycouncil@gmail.com

[Updated: June 22 to clarify and correct the post on the position of trikes and scooters (as noted in the comments section]