It’s 3:27 p.m. and you’ve hit the snooze button maybe once? Twice? Doesn’t matter. What matters now is that your midterm in Campbell Hall starts in less than three minutes. Realizing this, your heart drops to floor, and your body jerks forward as if it’s been struck by lightning. Instinctually, your left hand grabs your bag, and your right hand grabs the ol’ trusty board as you sprint out of San Miguel. Throwing your board to the floor, you push off, slamming your foot so hard against the Earth that your leg recoils into numbness. Picking up speed, buildings seem to fly by in seconds, but you begin to realize just one small problem, “I gotta go through the Arbor, don’t I…Shit”. You know the risks, but with just a couple minutes to go you decide to press on, guiltily listening to your little plastic wheels dance across the now-Arbor tiles.
Suddenly, a sense of unadulterated fear shoots through your insides as the eyes of man donned in dark blue meet your own. The blue man, who towers at a staggering 6’9”, stands as if he were made of stone. His hand, slowly raising into the empty space before you. “Stop,” he says coldly. With less than a minute to go, you contemplate your limited options, “I can get a ticket and be late, possibly missing the midterm. Or I can boldly push on! Making the midterm, and getting no tickets! And he’s on foot! He couldn’t catch a cool skater if he even tried!” Choosing the latter option, you arrogantly avert your eyes from the blue man’s gaze, pompously slamming your foot to the floor.
But alas, this show of defiance is short lived, for the blue man violently crashes into you like a tractor trailer that’s lost its brakes. In an instant, your face is sent to grind against concrete, burning like sulfuric acid, and the arbor tiles feel like brass knuckles taken to your brittle bones. Bloodied and bruised, you cry a blood-curdling shriek. However, your cry seems to fall on deaf ears, as the blue man angrily snarls, “STOP RESISTING!” Everyone, turning now to witness such rage, drops whatever they were doing; their voices fade into silence. Their gazes, now ripping into you like missiles, lock onto your mangled body. “YOU’RE HURTING ME!” You wheeze back, but you’re cruelly answered once more with, “STOP RESISTING!”
Does the punishment of being slammed to the floor fit the crime of a low-level “moving violation?”
Like a man clutching his last dollar bill, the officer tightens his grip around the back of your neck, and slams your rebellious face again to the floor. Realizing that fighting back is futile, you give up, succumbing to the titan on top of you. Relaxing your body against the earth, you reflect on how foolishly this all happened: “I just…I just wanted to pass Greek myth!” you whimper to yourself, as you submit to the awesome power that is the UCPD.
Though this tale is that of fiction, it doesn’t stray very far from reality. On Feb. 27, 2017, a student who identified herself as Erin Morgan dared to ride her skateboard through the Arbor. At approximately 3:30 p.m., Morgan was violently thrown from her board to the floor by UCPD officers. Though this action was more or less caused by her failed attempt to run from UCPD’s citation of a moving violation, it does beg the question as to whether or not this move was morally just.
While the legality of UCPD’s use of force is without question, the larger ethics of them are not. For one, does the punishment of being slammed to the floor fit the crime of a low-level “moving violation?” Especially a moving violation that can only be committed in arbitrarily designated ‘no-go’ zones. Does a crime that puts people at minimal risk compare to that of one that actually costs people their lives (i.e. speeding, running red lights, texting-while driving, drunk-driving, etc.)? The punishment for speeding in California can set you back somewhere between $200-400, while the punishment for daring to ride a skateboard on campus can easily be just as costly, with the added flavor of pain.
Granted, while these punishments seem to go a bit far for committing the act of skating, it should be noted that enforcement is rare. In my personal experience, it would seem that UCPD acts to enforce the skateboard laws only occasionally, while the vast majority of the time skateboard laws are broken both blatantly and excessively. To the casual observer, it might appear that skateboarding isn’t any sort of crime whatsoever, if not for the warning signs plastered around campus.
So, with such liberal interpretations of the rules, it might be important to take a look at what the law says exactly, especially if we’re repeatedly reminded about breaking them. Officially written in 21113(g) of the California Vehicle Code, skaters (and scooters) on campus are regulated to the far right of sidewalks and prohibited from anyplace with a ‘NO SKATEBOARDING’ sign, such as tunnels, parking lots and, most importantly, bikeways.
Now I’m not sure about you, but I’ve yet to witness a day in which none of these rules are broken. Everyday skaters race through Pardall Tunnel, they’re consistently passing through the Arbor and now electric skateboards are becoming prevalent in the bike lanes through campus. This then begs the question: Why do we even have such rules, as it would appear campus efforts to regulate skaters have all but been in vain…Or have they?
On today’s campus, skateboarders, though still common, seem to be less prevalent than they were about a year ago. Whereas before in Campbell Hall you’d see an army of longboards line the walls, now you may only see a few to a dozen. While on the opposite side of things, bikes and the bike lanes seem to have gotten far, far worse. Anecdotally, I’ve laid witness to an increasingly disturbing number of bike accidents on campus.
If UCSB really does care for its students or its money, the administration should at the very least consider making improvements in the viability of skateboarding or exploring other equal alternatives to biking.
While I’m not sure if our acceptance rate has anything to do with it, I am sure that a non-marginal number of people who traded their boards for bikes exist. Though my only evidence for that is this that I was one of those people. As a now former-skater, I used to dutifully ride my longboard to and from class each day. Though, admittedly, when Morgan’s story broke out, my initial reaction left me recoiling into a state of cognitive dissonance.
On one hand I like skateboarding, while on the other, I do not like tickets, nor do I like being body slammed to the ground. Thus, I was left to re-evaluate my means of transportation. Thinking about all the risks I was taking — all due to the apparently heinous crime of skating safely from one side of campus to the other — led me to conclude that a bike might be better. So with a heavy heart, I made the decision of a lifetime by trading my grip tape for pedals.
So that’s where we are today: a rather strongly implied mode of transportation versus an alternative that is essentially criminal in the eyes of the university. On one hand, you have bike lanes everywhere, letting students, residents and faculty get from basically all of Goleta to anywhere on campus quickly. On the other, you have a neglected singular skateboard lane that really just takes you from HSSB to the outer edge of the Arbor, (but God forbid you encroach too much on the Arbor).
So what now? Can skateboarders, police, pedestrians and the law all co-exist? Is there a peaceful solution to any of this? Well you’re in luck because I have just the solution: paint. For the price of a can of bright yellow paint, a second skateboard lane can be drawn down through the Arbor, thus creating a designated lane for skaters to safely move about without impeding foot traffic. What’s more, several more yellow lines could be drawn horizontally through the skateboard lane, creating pedestrian crossings. The elegance of this solution is such that nothing else has to be done; it’s simple, cheap and effective. No paving, no construction, nothing. Just paint. Even better, the officers that do patrol the Arbor won’t even be out of a job, and it might even create more jobs! All they’d have to do is patrol in such a fashion to ensure that skaters are moving about in a safe manner through the lanes and not recklessly slamming into pedestrians.
Even further, this solution would see increases in the amount of people skating, as legal skateboarding could become an appealing alternative to biking. Alternatives to bikes would then decrease the volume of people utilizing the bike lane. In turn, reducing the number of bikers reduces the probability of bike accidents. Reductions in the number of bike accidents reduces the amount of money spent on medical and emergency services rendered to those injured in such accidents. Less accidents and more money means improvement in student well-being.
For such reasons, if UCSB really does care for its students or its money, the administration should at the very least consider making improvements in the viability of skateboarding or exploring other equal alternatives to biking. Doing so would not only benefit the common student, but would drastically increase student happiness and safety as a whole. Further, with saner rules and regulations, police-student interactions would seek a boost as well, as those cited — per my plan — would only be the reckless ones and would leave everyone else to transport themselves safely in peace.
Kekai ‘O Kalani Akita wants Gauchos to have the space and freedom to skate to their classes.