By Andrea Johnson
I was walking with a friend to Main Hall last year about this time. It was beautiful outside. We talked about taking advantage of what would probably be the next last few days of Fall Term.
We were passing Memorial, Hall basking in the red-orange glow of fall, when a skateboarder careened around the corner of the Wriston Center. He was going too fast and we were too close—he collided full-on with my friend.
Luckily neither of them was hurt. My friend was more startled than anything, and the skateboarder, though quite embarrassed, was fine.
After apologizing several times and making sure my friend wasn’t hurt, he ran off to retrieve the skateboard that had continued, rider-less, across Hurvis Crossing until it was stopped by the back of another student’s ankle.
My friend and I watched, dumbfounded and then more and more furious, as the skateboarder made another round of effusive apologies.
Skateboarders and longboarders—hereafter referred to collectively as “slongboarders”—of Lawrence University: stop riding slongboards on the sidewalks at the peak class-walking times of 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Your chosen method of transportation is simply not compatible with foot traffic.
Here’s why: Slongboards don’t do well with even small impediments. A piece of gravel is likely to send a skateboarder flying—either onto the ground or the person innocently walking to Main Hall in front of them. Small, hard plastic wheels don’t do well with anything but the smoothest of pavements. Yes, longboard wheels are marginally larger. They are still not ideal for sidewalk riding, especially when weaving between people.
Slongboards have no really efficient way to break. The only options involve dragging either a body part or the tail of the skateboard along the ground until it comes to a stop.
Doing this quickly is impossible at anything but very low speeds. Not ideal when you’re maneuvering between dozens of moving bodies in tight quarters.
And what happens when you can’t break? Whether you’re riding a bike, scooter, unicycle or slongboard, this can happen: something’s in your way and you know you won’t be able to stop or turn in time.
If you bail off of a bike, scooter or unicycle, both you and your bike/scooter/unicycle will simply fall over. They need riders and the forward momentum they provide to keep balanced.
Slongboards, on the other hand, can continue rolling because their four wheels balance quite nicely on their own, thank you very much.
A rider-less bike is just that: a rider-less bike, useless and sad on the pavement. A rider-less slongboard is an ankle-seeking missile. It won’t stop until it’s found an Achilles tendon to halt its momentum.
This is a problem, because slongboarders have to bail so much more often than bikers or scooter-ers because of their less efficient maneuvering and braking. How many times have we all watched, worried—and then just embarrassed—as a slongboarder bails off their board with about as much grace as a Connie trying to dance when a person, place or thing is in the way?
With slongboards, you get much less bang for your buck as compared to bikes. They require near constant pushing and don’t compensate for the bumps in the road nearly as well—thank you, microscopic wheels. Bikes, with their larger wheels, handbrakes and easy turning, are so much more safe and efficient.
As far as modes of transportation between classes go, I think slongboards are just about the worst and should be banned everywhere on campus—not just the steps outside the library—between 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
But as far as recreational activities go, I think they’re as good as anything else. I’ve ridden slongboards and I enjoyed it, the way you have to balance on them and use the motion of your whole body to maneuver.
It feels graceful, but with the edge of danger that’s inevitable when you’re hurtling through space on something that’s difficult to turn and to stop. I see the appeal. And I took my share of tumbles when I hit a rock, or a leaf. But I did so in the sanctuary of a deserted side street.
Take a cue from Lawrence’s own Women’s Longboarding Club and take your boards to skate parks, quiet streets or empty parking lots when the sidewalks are choked with pedestrians. You can enjoy riding your boards without us pesky, slow-moving people in your way, and we can enjoy walking without fear for life and limb.