Skatepark Crunch: Do bikers, skaters mix?
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY ” This story began after a local who said he was physically assaulted at the public skatepark in Silverthorne recently contacted the Summit Daily News.
The victim, who shared his story under the condition of anonymity, vividly recounted the incident in letter form.
The message began:
“My jaw hurts a lot now because I just got punched. It was right after I told him I did not want to fight.
You know why that happened?
Because I was playing. Having a good time riding my bicycle with a smile on my face.”
The assaulted man, who will be referred to as Jim in this article, went on to explain his belief that he was beat up by a skateboarder because he was riding in a park that was officially closed to bicycles.
Although violence is relatively rare in Summit County, the incident broached a broader question:
Can skateboarders and BMX bikers coexist in the park both safely and peacefully?
If not, is it that way on a case-by-case basis, or is there an inherent animosity or subtle war between the two groups?
It seems to depend on who you ask.
Many skaters contend that concrete skateparks are highly susceptible to damage caused by BMX bike pegs.
This is one of the reasons Silverthorne prohibits bikes in its skatepark, according to the town’s recreation and culture director, Tammy Jamieson.
Not only does such damage depreciate the facilities, it can also make things dangerous for skaters.
“Skating across a rough surface can make you fall and injure yourself,” said local skateboarding instructor Angus Morrison, who maintained his comments are more reflective of what he sees as the general consensus, rather than his own opinion.
“It’s been shown that 90 percent of falls by skateboarders with more than one year of experience are caused by an uneven surface or debris on the surface.”
Park damage is less of a concern in Frisco where the above-ground features are made of a material called Skatelite, a masonite wood structure infused with particles of plastic.
According to Frisco’s recreation coordinator, Chris Landry, the town first considered including bikers when it opted to go with a pre-fabbed facility about six years ago.
Landry, who, like Jim, loves both riding and skating, says he leaves his BMX pegs at home when he rides in the park.
Breckenridge’s park, which has both below- and above-ground features, also allows bikers.
Few would argue that bikes are bigger, faster and quieter than skateboards, which some skaters view as a recipe for disaster within the small confines of a park.
“It’s nerve-racking to have pegs (head) high while you’re skating,” said Zack Butts, who moved out to Summit from Michigan about a month ago.
“Bikes can go a lot higher, so I don’t really care for them because of that ” it’s more of a danger factor.”
Kim Cancelosi is a local mom who supervises her son at the local parks on a regular basis.
She said she’s seen far more problems with 20-something skateboarders not yielding to youngsters than she’s seen bikers messing up the venue.
“We were (in Frisco) last night and there about 20 people, two of them on bikes,” Cancelosi said.
“They seemed to be on hypo-alert status, sensing where the boarders were and staying out of their way.”
Although Landry acknowledged that a “nonchalant” war has historically existed between skaters and bikers, he believes locals in both categories try to get along for the most part.
After all, biking and skating both fall in the category that’s come to be known as “action” sports.
Caroline Foley is another skate mom. In the midst of a day when Foley brought her son to all three local parks, she offered the perspective that bikers are more tolerated in Frisco than in Breck.
“I once saw some young teenage bikers get booed out of Breck’s park,” she said. “The skaters all tapped their decks and told them to get out.”
Foley also said she’s seen bikers drop in at Breck free from harassment.
So has Tim Smith.
“I just think that in Colorado, everyone is more chill for the most part,” said Smith, a native of Oregon.
“But there’s a lot of that going on in Portland to this day.
The first time I went to this place called Pure Park, I saw a guy on a bike and a skateboarder who was rolling away.
The biker jumped off his bike onto the skater’s back and just started punching him in the face ” that kind of sketched me out.”
“It’s silly when people think those kind of differences really matter,” said Denver’s Dave Mechtly, who recently took his downhill mountain bike into the Rainbow Skatepark unaware that he was poaching.
“It’s like skiers and snowboarders,” added Mechtly’s riding partner for the day, Ryan Moore of Utah.
“When there were first (terrain) parks, skiers weren’t down; now it’s for anyone.”
In a recent phone interview, Morrison cited the fact that bikes take up much more space in a skatepark then skaters do, regardless of people’s animosities or lack thereof.
“You could have 30 skaters at a park and if three bikers show up, the skaters will all disperse,” he said.
“Or there’ll be some close calls with people almost getting hit.”
According to virtually everyone polled for this story, there is just a handful of visible BMXers in local parks compared to the relative droves of skateboarders.
It’s unclear why there is such a dearth of BMX bikers in Summit. Perhaps the sport is trumped by the wealth of challenging and pristine mountain biking options in the area.
Regardless of the reason, it begs the question: If there were more BMXers around, would growing problems be unavoidable?
“The more even the skater-to-biker ratio is, the more conflict there’s going to be,” said local skater Jamal Dhayni.
“It’s the same as rollerbladers and skaters and even skaters and skaters. It’s just like more people being around more people.”
Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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