Practice Safe Skating
Skateboarding, rollerblading, and BMX biking are hazardous sports. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 26,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year from action sports-related injuries. Many of these injuries are due to the risky nature of the sport and are not easily preventable, but some precautions can be taken. By paying attention to a few safety and maintenance points, park staff members can help minimize the risk of injury to skatepark users.
- Skateboard and rollerblade wheels stop easily, and when that happens, the rider is thrown, sometimes landing on his or her face. Cracked, crumbling, or pitted concrete should be repaired as soon as it is noticed to minimize the risk of falls.
- Litter and small objects, like loose change, gravel, or mulch, also stop wheels. Regular sweeping makes skateparks safer.
- Although trees and flower beds look nice, they can create a lot of debris. Flower beds covered with pine straw, mulch, or pebbles also are a problem because the ground cover ends up strewn over the park. To minimize the risk of falls and the amount of sweeping, it is best to not have flower beds close to a skating area, or to choose plants that are low-maintenance. Juniper, ivy, monkey grass, or Pampas grass are great choices because they do not require mulch or pine straw in the flower beds, thus lessening much of the debris.
- To prevent falls related to wet surfaces, keep drains free of debris at all times.
- Water is extremely important to park users during the hot-weather months. Check fountains frequently and keep them in working order to prevent dehydration in skaters.
Signage (That May Not Already Be Posted)
- Warn skaters of the danger of riding on wet surfaces.
- Advise park users not to ride under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as they can impair judgment and physical ability.
- Post the physical address clearly so park patrons can give it to 911 operators if needed.
- Shadows can play tricks on the eyes, causing riders to misjudge distances, which increases the chances of collisions and falls. To limit shadows, check lights frequently and replace bulbs as soon as they burn out.
- Collisions and falls occur when lights go out unexpectedly. Check timers often to ensure they are in sync with conventional time, and adjust them promptly for daylight savings time. Make switches accessible to park staff only to prevent park users from playing “jokes” by turning off the lights.
- Post closing times clearly so park users know what time the lights go out, and can plan accordingly. Buzzers that give a few minutes’ warning time before closing or lights that dim instead of going black can also prevent falls and collisions.
Skateboarding and rollerblading, and will always have some element of danger, but keeping the park and surface conditions safe are important. A safe park can mean the difference between a fun day of skating and a serious injury. By combining these safety points with a regular maintenance routine, park staff can help make the risky sports just a little safer.
Julia Tew is a Recreation Specialist for Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation at the George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center in Georgia. Reach her at Julia.Tew@gwinnettcounty.com.