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]


19 comments for “When scooters are outlawed…

  1. Susan Davis
    June 18, 2008 at 7:53 am

    So…let me get this straight (‘cuz my head is kind of spinning).

    If my kids can’t bicycle, scooter, or skateboard in city parks, the only place they can bicycle, scooter, or skateboard is on city sidewalks, right?

    Oh, but that’s illegal (at least for bikes).

    Which means my kids should practice bicycling, scootering, and skateboarding on city streets?


    Wheeling through city parks is an age-old form of recreation and a classic (fun! safe!) way of getting from one place to another while avoiding streets and traffic. Both of my kids learned to ride without training wheels in city parks because there’s no, um, cars.

    As for deputizing teen staff to write tickets (!): For a short while, teen staff at Krusi Park were told to stop kids from climbing the park’s very climb-able trees. Parents got snarky; staff backed off; to this day, kids still climb trees there. Lesson learned? It’s hard to enforce silly rules.

  2. June 18, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Not to ask too much, but: finding solutions to existing problems might be prioritized over finding solutions to non-existent problems.

  3. June 18, 2008 at 9:00 am

    You forgot that they also outlawed “muscular powered” vehicles on school property as well.

    Aren’t we supposed to be encouraging kids to bike to school?

    Someone better call this up for review because it is outrageous.

  4. whitney
    June 18, 2008 at 10:26 am

    This is completely ridiculous and feels like it must be a joke or some kind of misunderstanding. Are you punking us?

    Reminds me of when the city of Carmel under Mayor Clint Eastwood banned (or tried to ban) eating ice cream cones on the sidewalks of Carmel because they occasionally dripped.

    This should be obvious, but kids need to ride bikes — in parks, in school yards, everywhere it’s safe. It’s good for their health and it’s fun. It’s an important quality of life issue. Mayor and City Council — please say this was a mistake and quickly correct it.

  5. John Knox White
    June 18, 2008 at 11:12 am

    So I have confirmed that these changes must go back tot he council for a second reading and another vote. So there is already a process for this to be dealt with. Hopefully, in the light of a less hectic day, the reasonable heads on the council will see that this wasn’t the direction that they wanted to head in.

    And a quick clarifying note: Biking and scootering are not illegal on sidewalks in Alameda, just in Business Districts.

  6. Steph
    June 18, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    This is idiotic. And it’s not just kids who ride bikes in parks. I ride through the “Marina” park several times a week to get to work. (This is how the area behind the Marina Village condos is labeled on the ARPD facilities map.) The area is marked by ARPD signs, and there are some relatively recent signs that say something like “Bicycles yield to pedestrians, 5 mph.” (I just noticed them a couple weeks ago, maybe they’ve been there longer and I’m just not observant. Anyway, there are several of these signs along the path and they don’t seem to create a big “visual mess”.) How are they going to decide where bikes are allowed? I know the city has budget problems, but is the mayor really looking for a new revenue source from all those little kids who’ll get tickets written by low-paid teenagers?

  7. Shauna
    June 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I’m a 39-year old accountant & mother of 2 who has recently taken up skateboarding again as a joy & a form of transportation… here’s what I think (& what I posted on Live Journal):

    you’ve got to be kidding

    Alameda has decided that it ought to be a little more illegal to roll around town on a skateboard. Which may have been the original intention, but this is a bit much.

    Turns out it was already illegal to skate in a business district. I’ll have to find out what that means exactly. Is that any street with a business on it? Is it a given distance from a business? Is it a street that is zoned for businesses? Research required.

    Added to any existing restrictions, it is now going to be illegal to use any sort of muscle-powered vehicle in the city’s parks & other structures. The seemed intention is to keep us from using the new parking structure next to the theater as a big skate-toy, but parks? Aren’t parks sort of meant for this sort of thing?

    Um. Do they realize that they just outlawed strollers in parks? Duh.

    And, yeah, we have some sort of skate park around here someplace, but a skate park surely doesn’t get me from my house to the grocery store. My board is a form of transportation. That’s part of the joy of it. I’m not driving, so I’m saving gas. And I’m out in the air, in the world. I’m not walking, so I’m there & back much more quickly. It’s not about needing a place to skate. It’s about skating to places I need to get.

  8. Anthony
    June 21, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is illegal statewide for all persons over 12 (or 12 & over; I didn’t check that carefully), unless there’s a sign specifically permitting it.

  9. John Knox White
    June 21, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Actually, the California Vehicle Code gives each jurisdiction the authority to regulate bikes on sidewalks. In Alameda, the Municipal only bans bicycle riding on sidewalks that are with the city’s commercial districts.

    That said, the issue of riding bicycles on sidewalks in Alameda (whether to continue to allow or not) will be included in the Bicycle Master Plan update which started last week and will continue through the summer.

    To receive meeting announcements, you can sign up at:
    (the entry box is on the left hand side, you might need to scroll down).

  10. whitney
    June 21, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    So is what Shauna said true? Would a stroller be considered a muscular powered vehicle? What about red wagons?

  11. John Knox White
    June 21, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    I fear I accidentally ventured into hyperbole when I mentioned Trikes. (sorry!)

    “Toys” which wagons and trikes, and possibly even scooters (though they were singled out during the council discussion) are governed by separate rules and would not be affected by this proposal.

  12. Jon Spangler
    June 21, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Good grief, Charlie Brown! :-(

    Banning muscle-powered vehicles does seem to include strollers and baby joggers, so I would think that a major uproar from the pram-pushing set might be easily generated. This move produces, shall I say, “shock and awe.” It should be reversed, and may well be, if sound arguments against hasty action cn be presented and the issue referred to the venerable TC and Rec & Parks Commission for further study….

    JKW, your instincts may well be correct on the possible violations of the Brown Act, which Our Fair City’s leaders normally honor very carefully.

    You are correct, also, on the need for a second reading on any changes in the municipal code.

    Thank God it’s not too late to stop this “hasty” action…

  13. AD
    June 22, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Here’s the existing language on muscle-powered vehicles from the AMC:

    23-1.3 Riding of Bicycles and Skateboards in Parks, Etc.
    It shall be unlawful when and where posted for any person to operate or ride a bicycle, or skateboard, propelled wholly or in part by muscular power, in or upon any public park, playground or school property in the City.
    The use and operation of skateboards, roller skates, and in-line skates shall be authorized at the Skate Park, at Alameda Point. All persons using, operating, or riding a skateboard, roller skates, or in-line skates at the Skate Park, at Alameda Point, shall wear a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads at all times. (Ord. No. 743 N.S.; Ord. No. 2439 N.S. § 1; Ord. No. 2798 N.S. § 1)

    What is the proposed change?

  14. Robert
    June 22, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Seems to me, a 63 year old grandfather, it will now be a crime for me to pull my grandkids onto park grounds in their wagon. Their red coaster wagon is a “muscular powered vehicle” and see no exception in the council proposal for “toys” as mentioned in an above comment. If ia wagon is a “toy”, isn’t a skateboard also a “toy”?

    AMC 23-1.3 Riding of Bicycles and Skateboards in Parks, looks to me to only apply to “bicycle, or skateboard, propelled wholly or in part by muscular power,” and does not mention the catch-all “and ALL muscular powered vehicles from all city parks” as stated in the council proposal.

    I wonder if my grandkids will also be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a grandparent if they knowingly allow me to pull them in their wagon?

  15. John Knox White
    June 22, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Tthe proposed change is a reversal of the “It shall be unlawful when and where posted” to essentially (i’m not directly transcribing here) “It shall be unlawful unless posted….” as well as an addition of parking lots, garages and public buildings to the list of places bikes and skateboards may not be used, with an exception for bicycling to a bike rack located in a lot or garage.

  16. AD
    June 23, 2008 at 8:43 am

    So let me get this straight: If it is unlawful unless posted, where no sign is posted, everybody will be breaking the law (since they reasonably assume bike/scooter/skateboard riding IS allowed in parks). Without sign, I can see so many people questioning the park guy who tries to tell them they are breaking the law, that soon the city will be compelled to post a sign saying exactly what the sign in your park says right now, “No bikes allowed.”

    If a particular location is an exception to the rule however, it will require a new sign to replace the current sign that says “No bikes allowed” with one that says “Bikes allowed.” But that would be unnecessary since most people already assume that to be the case! Or will we then need two signs, one that states that bikes are not allowed and one that states the exception? That’s adding more visual clutter, no?

    I can imagine the number of people who will be confused by all the conflicting signs, and I feel sorry for the poor park workers trying to explain this lack of logic, let alone enforce it. Since I don’t have a license plate on my bike, short of arresting me, how is anyone going to write me a ticket?

    The ultimate question is, what is the goal the Mayor (and council) is trying to achieve? Safety, more revenue, less visual clutter? If they can state clearly what they want achieved, someone who is not lost in Wonderland can probably come up with the proper solution.

  17. Michael Krueger
    June 23, 2008 at 9:50 am

    This whole escapade seems like a classic example of a solution in search of a problem.

    Really, how did we go from complaints about skateboarders in the parking garage to banning all human-powered vehicles in parks? Although I think the proposed Municipal Code changes were an overreaction, at least there were documented complaints about skateboarding in the garage. Where is the evidence that bikes, scooters, and other such vehicles are causing problems in our parks? How many complaints have been received? How many accidents have been reported?

  18. Christiaan
    July 2, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    An email I received from a City Council member clarifying the code….
    “Dear Mr. Havelaar

    The ordinace only places bans on parking facilities.

    Parks are still legal for riding unless posted.


    Frank M.atarrese “

  19. October 22, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Just came across this string and found this on website. It from Alameda Municipal Code Chapter 11 section 4.2 (11-4.2)

    This is the URL

    This is the full text as of 10/22/08 from the above link

    11-4.2 Riding on Sidewalk.
    Bicycles may be ridden on the sidewalk, except such sidewalks that pass directly in front of or adjacent to any stores, schools, or other buildings used for business purposes during the hours that such establishment is open for business.
    a. Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
    b. It shall be unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle in any pedestrian crosswalk at a signal controlled intersection, adjacent to any school, or one which is under the control of the school crossing guard. At all other intersections the bicyclist shall exercise due caution before entering onto the roadway. (Ord. No. 535 N.S. § 7-332; Ord. No. 1665 N.S.; Ord. No. 1713 N.S.)

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