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Langley council may ease up on skateboard restrictions

Jesse Portillo photo / jessepphotography.smugmug.com Daniel Sage ollies in the ally behind the Red Apple in Clinton. The recent South Whidbey High School graduate skated in areas like this where skating was allowed, or at least not forbidden. Skateboards, scooters, roller skates and any other human-powered devices could become a legal means of transportation in residential areas of Langley under an ordinance change being considered by the City Council.

Currently, no such devices are allowed on any public street, alley, park or sidewalk within city limits. The only exception to the rule is bicycles and they are only allowed on streets and alleys.

The impetus for the rule change, which would legalize such uses only in residential areas, stems from Police Chief Randy Heston. Langley’s top cop has been researching municipal codes around the state in an effort to update and modernize the city code.

So far, Heston has found a handful of antiquated laws he’s worked to have changed or repealed, such as a long defunct state requirement that motorists and boaters always have a litter bag in their possession at all times.

One of his most recent discoveries was a strict ban on skateboards. He said it’s excessive, even compared to other municipal codes, and needs to be revised.

“Do you really need to have an anti-skateboarding law city wide?” Heston said.

“Personally, I’ve never seen a problem with it so I proposed to lift it,” he said.

It will still be illegal, however, to operate or ride human powered devices or vehicles — excluding bicycles — in business and commercial areas. It was a point of concern voiced during the ordinances first reviewed by the city council on Monday.

“What’s the argument against not including the rest of the town?” Councilman Jim Sundberg asked.

Heston was not present at the meeting to answer questions, but Mayor Larry Kwarsick noted that the issue was sent to the city’s risk manager and attorney for review and they made their opinions on the matter crystal clear: no skateboards in busy areas.

Kwarsick said he would like restrictions on non-motorized transportation as well, but there is just too much risk for potential litigation, he said.

“In concept, I support the direction you want to go,” he said.

City Clerk Debbie Mahler agreed, saying cities need to be extra careful when it comes to permitting activities that could leave them financially liable because it doesn’t take much to end up in court.

“If someone trips and falls, they sue the city,” she said.

Heston also is adamant that the ban should remain in effect in business and commercial zones. While bicycles, which he said are more visible and easier to control, will still be allowed in those areas, it’s a matter of safety.

“We don’t want anybody to get hurt,” he said. “Skateboards on the street with moving vehicles is just too dangerous to me.”

Sundberg made it clear that he was not drawing any lines in the sand but wanted to speak with Heston personally to learn more before making a decision. As two council members were absent from the meeting, it was agreed to talk about the rule changes again at the council’s next meeting, Aug. 27.

Community Events, April 2014

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