The trouble with BMX in Seattle skateparks.

Photo courtesy of Skaters for Public Skateparks
Photo: SPS

Every once in a while (what I presume is) a BMX rider will send me an email, or post some asinine message in the comments about how skaters are (insult X) and how totally rad BMX riders should just be allowed to ride in Seattle skateparks.  They’re always rife with misspellings, insults, and in reality are probably written by young kids which is fine.  At least I hope so.

Anyway, I finally got a level-headed letter about this topic that compelled me to respond due to the honest question by a parent who lives near the new Delridge park location:


I live in Delridge 3 blocks from the park. My son is 9 years old, goes to Pathfinder School. There are lots of young boys and girls in the “hood”.

I own a local Bicycle Repair shop.

I support ANYTHING for kids. Our shop is not into Skateboards or BMX bikes much. We do love to fix bikes, but leave the boards to Stu at Alki or online.

One of my employees, Max, is really into BMX street. He says that boarders and bikers are compatable. He also says that newer plastic bike parts (pegs and pedals, spoke guards, chainring guards, etc.) are skate park friendly and don’t damage the park.

So I was wondering why Skaters and BMX riders don’t join forces? Kids these days are pretty cool and I know they would take turns and show respect.
I don’t see a conflict. I also often wonder why it is painted “No Bikes” on the Marginal Way “park”.

Here is my response:

Hi (name withheld),

Thanks for asking this question. I get emails about this all the time but they are usually in the form of nasty hate mail from bikers.

There are definitely some parks that seem to have found a happy medium between bike and skateboard use in the same park. Those communities should be applauded for making it work. Maintenance and park damage is a concern, but in Seattle and in the majority of skateparks, mixed use simply does not work for one primary reason: we don’t have enough skateparks in Seattle so they’re always very crowded, which makes riding bikes in skateparks dangerous for skateboarders.

There has been a ton of discussion on this topic amongst skatepark advocates in Seattle and elsewhere on the internet. Skateboarders do not hate bikers or anything like that. In fact, many skateboarders are cyclists as well. We’ve had forums in the SPAC meetings that have addressed this issue, with BMX riders involved, and the outcome has always been until we have enough facilities for the underserved skateboarding population in Seattle, the parks will be too crowded for mixed use creating a dangerous confluence of lines and riding styles within the park, and therefore bikes should not be allowed.

All one has to do is go to Lower Woodland skatepark on a day when there are 10 BMX riders disobeying the “no bikes” rule. What they will see is younger and less experienced skaters leaving the park immediately, and the more experienced skaters shifting over to the one advanced bowl that the bikers seem to not want to use. The skateboarders of Seattle fought hard for four years to get that park built, only to then be displaced by 10 BMX riders who were not around during the tough times of getting over the political and bureaucratic hurdles in order to make that skatepark a reality.

To make things worse, when the park is full of skaters and the bikers show up making things sketchy for skaters, they don’t respond well to being asked to respect the rules and leave. In fact, they’ve been real dicks about it on almost every occasion.

This is not to say that I haven’t skated at Lower Woodland and at other skateparks harmoniously with bikers. It works well when the bikers are aware of the issues, respectful of everyone else in the park, and have enough common sense to stop riding if it gets too crowded and they become a safety threat to the other users of the park. Unfortunately these riders are the minority in Seattle skateparks.

Below, I’ve attached a link to what I think is a really sane and balanced view on mixed use and how it can work, or when it doesn’t. Personally, I would really like to see the BMX riders in Seattle get a place of their own, but despite the encouragement and countless offers from the SPAC to help them get organized, no bikers have stepped up to get their hands dirty and do the work that’s required. It seems as though they just want to ride the coattails of the skateboards in Seattle and continue to displace skaters in the parks that skaters worked so hard to get.

Check out this SPS Article on mixed use skateparks.

Hopefully we can get to a place in Seattle where mixed use can become a reality, but it’s going to take a lot more effort from the BMX riders to make it happen in my opinion.


25 Replies to “The trouble with BMX in Seattle skateparks.”

  1. at the woodland skatepark i tried to skate with bmx’ers but after they ran into me and tore my skin i thought i might as well call 911 to get an officer out to kick them out so i could skate in peace. i waited over an hour and no officer showed up.

  2. Why not build a couple bmx parks for the kids .?
    that way the bikers wouldnt be as upset .

  3. As a BMXr that also likes to skate I have to say this is not telling the whole story. Many skaters push very hard to keep parks to themselves including excluding bikes from the initial planning phase. In my hometown in Houston, a huge new concrete park was built but the skaters refused to let bikers help from the beginning.

    On the flip side, I just spent 6 months in whistler where the parks are shared by bikers and boarders. Almost everyone got along pretty well and the vibe was good. Sure there were occasional times where lines crossed because someone wasn’t paying attention and someone had to bail. It happens even when its boards only.

    I also did not see or hear of any damage to the park from bikes. I don’t understand where that fear comes from especially in concrete parks. Maybe the concrete features there were built with mixed-use in mind eliminating damage concerns, I don’t know.

    I have had my share of being chased out of great places to ride (skateparks, garages, plazas) which Im sure most skaters have too. Maybe even more so since bikes are almost always banned from skateparks as well as public places.

    Im just looking for more places to ride and I would really like to see more mixed-use parks.

  4. Hello, being a BMX rider I am sorry to hear how much trash mail you get from younger and ignorent riders. Here in Texas most of the parks are “no bike” parks, but the bikers have been going to city meetings trying to get officials to change rules on bikes to no good ending. One of our parks in Leander mixes both bikes, boards, and everything else.. anyway, it’s a small park and no one has ever gotten seriously hurt from us mixing in together. We all share the bowl, if it gets to crowded we simple move to the street section and let the bowl riders have their space. I (personally) dont believe in too small of a park, or too dangerous. We all do extreme sports for a reason and are aware of what could happen. If anything, banning kids from skateparks is cutting off their ability to get creative and ride.

  5. there arent enough BMXers to warrant them getting a park. I got my leg stabbed by a bike peg at sammamish

  6. I agree with Tim. I have been a bmxer, skater and snowboarder all my life. I have owned a indoor park. As long as everyone is respectful and takes turns there are no problems. If you’ve been down to the Skatebarn on a Thursday night, (which is bike night) there are hundreds of bikers ready to ride. So the comment by Rumbot stating there’s not enough BMXers is incorrect.

    As a person who owned a indoor park, also knows that a skateboard can be more dangerous then a bike. Once a skateboarder falls that skateboard can go anywhere and hit anything. When a biker falls they usually end up tangled in the bike. Plus skateboard trucks do just as much damage to surfaces as pegs.

    I for one would love for all the local bmxers to contact me and we find a way to make this work. I have been looking into buying a place like the Skatebarn and making a indoor park. That would be for bikers and skaters, without having certain days dedicated for either one. If someone would like to step up and help I have 50 bmx friends that are ready to work. Maybe the city can help me with a location and we can do the rest.

    Thank you

  7. Thanks for your comment Mike.

    I don’t disagree with this in principle. It really doesn’t matter what you’re riding if you’re respectful and watching out for the people around you. The main problem at Greenlake, is that some of the people involved, are assholes. Straight up.

    But in practice this doesn’t work. You can’t sit at the park all day and say, “you’re cool to ride BMX here because you’re respectful”, “but you over there, you’re not…” All we’ve been trying to do is tip the scales in favor of the skaters so they have the ability to evoke the rule if things get out of hand.

    Why give the skaters the upper hand? Isn’t that reverse discrimination? I say no. Their community is larger, they lobbied and worked hard for this park. They outnumber the bikers 90% of the time. They have organized, regularly interface with the Parks Department, and work hard to build more parks.

    I applaud your effort to organize the BMX community. Ideally there would be enough facilities for everyone and we could all get along harmoniously. Organizing the bikers is going to make that actually possible instead of a joke as it is now.

    But until then, I’m still advocating for not allowing bikes in skateparks until I see a potential for a practical and realistic alternate scenario.

  8. The only real question here is who paid for the park or parks,,,, The skaters that want to ban the BMX kids,,, I think not, The TAX paying citizens of King co and the other counties in this area and who continue to pay for these parks…. Like myself, so if my kid want to ride his bike in one of these parks, then I dare some punk kid to come and tell me other wise unless they can produce a deed of trust to that facility they feel they fought so hard for,,, By the way my kid also skates but this is not a question of who does what. It is a matter of who has the real right to use these parks and the FACTS are this.

    The people who pay for them. GET OVER IT.,,, And if some Po Po wants to try and write me a ticket for that BRING IT! it will just open the whole can of worms for the skaters and take it to the state capital and Local govermnment oversite board on Tax payer funded parks and their usage.

  9. Actually Jeff, you can’t boil this down to just one issue. But thanks for raising the one that’s most important to you.

    I hear what you’re saying. The access rights issue is something that skaters have brought up many times, simply in terms of having facilities in the park system that are dedicated for skateboarding. We all pay for parks, so there should be some parks available for large user groups like skateboarders.

    It’s hard to say whether or not there are enough BMX riders to justify a whole system of parks, because they rarely come out to the meetings, if ever. But even a visit to Lower Woodland on a sunny day would show you that we could use at least one BMX park.

    But I caution you with this defense. Just because you pay taxes doesn’t guarantee you access to any public park site. You can’t ride BMX on public golf courses either (or at least you’re not supposed to).

    Really, the argument boils down to overcrowding. If there were enough parks, we wouldn’t need to regulate BMX use in skateparks because we wouldn’t have the safety issues, which really is the main concern.

    Thanks again for your comment. We’re going to continue to address this issue and look for a way that we can all co-habitate safely.

  10. Hey I was just wondering if aggressive rollerblading is allowed at any parks in the area. I know that for whatever reason most skateboarders/bmxrs dont like rollerbladers but i was wondering if there is anywhere in seattle/olympia area that dont have a problem with it? Thanks in advance for any responses but please no ignorant comments by young kids.

  11. Awesome article! As a BMX rider I appreciate the clear explanation that you presented here. I found this looking for more avenues to promote my fledgling bike park project.

    We are working on a website, but I am not a web designer… so all I have is a facebook page with some photoshop images. We want to build a bike oriented park with an indoor dirt jumping area as well as a few classic ramps (mini with spine for example).

    Please check out the facebook page and leave some comments!

  12. this is how i feel,
    i moved here from orlando and we have parks upon parks that are both bike and skate friendly,and we have NO PROBLEMS!!

    ive noticed the problem here is,ALL THE SKATERS DONT CARE ABOUT ANYONE BUT THEMSELVES..sad thing to say is thats why i quit skating because it the boarders not the sport that give skaters bad names.

    i think if these idiots opened up there eyes,and saw “hey,these dudes are kool,just like us..besides on bikes”,then there wouldnt be a problem!!

    i think what it also is,yes the parks are concrete..THATS WHY WE HAVE PLASTIC PASRTS SO WE DONT RUIN THE PARK AND BUTT HURT ALL THE SKATERS!!

    i mean hey..we get arrested and our bikes takin away (which can be a few grand) by the cops for riding street and “destroying things”,well if yall ahole bullcrap yuppy scum politicians would give us something legit to ride,there wouldnt be 10 riders taking over your park,us tagging them up,or sometimes even going there with hammers and destroying it!






  13. This is the same crap I had to deal with 20 years ago. If a park is overcrowded there’s just as much risk of a skater hitting another skater, a skater hitting a BMXer, or someone hitting a spectator. This is all a bunch of “it’s our park” crybaby crap. The fact that you mention several other parks where everything works out just fine proves it. You’re a moron. How about this, you didn’t pay for that park, don’t own the land, and are no more entitled to it than anybody else. You want a skaters only park, go build one at your own expense in your back yard. Hopefully your neighbors won’t call it an eye sore and nobody will sue you when they get hurt. I came from a community where little kids rode their razor scooters in the park right along with little girls sitting on pink Barbie skateboards and pro skater and BMXers getting all kinds of crazy. Your arguments are stupid.

  14. Thanks for helping to prove my point Brian.

    I’ve been advocating for a real solution to this issue for a long time, including bringing bikers to the table. Those conversations continue. Fortunately there are BMX riders who know how to communicate and have an adult conversation without digressing into childish insults.

  15. I dunno where the fallacy of BMX being foreign to skateparks comes from, given that they’ve both shared the parks for the last 4 decades. It’s not as if park skateboarding predates BMX doing the same

  16. As a 28 year old trying to get back into BMX riding, I was quite disappointed to learn that Lower Woodland has a no bikes policy. I understand the need for the rule however and it can be easily explained just as Matthew did. Bikes are bigger, faster and heavier. They can quickly take over a park if allowed to freely flow. A skater is just a body on a little piece of wood, but a biker is more like a machine with a person driving it.

    The only thing that we can do as BMXers is try to get our own park somewhere somehow. Until that time, we’re pretty screwed, and the simple fact is the city is too crowded.

  17. When skaters are the majority, they act as majorities typically act toward minorities, it’s pretty ironic considering all that “skateboarding is not a crime” whining. A crime is whatever the ruling class says it is, and when skaters rule, everything beyond skating is a crime.

  18. Your argument against bikes in parks is a weak one get real. By not not allowing any non-motorized vehicle in skateparks your just descriminating against and trying to segragate tax paying citizens who fund these amazing concrete structures . The terms skate and bike park are irrelevant since these facilities are in fact useable by many different forms of rolling sports. You should quit trying to demonize a community and try to unify and strength the bonds so we may all share these public parks and exist in harmony . Concrete is repairable but a youth lost may not be . Afterall that’s really the original arguement for constructing any concrete parks in the first place. I think you should be more appreciative of the fact that tax payers have funded almost a hundred skate parks in Washington alone . So if its too crowded you and I have plenty of locations to choose from. I mean come on there’s over half a dozen parks in Seattle . There is no actual legitimate reason worth segragating the population of park users.

  19. I am a skateboarder. I don’t mind BMXers riding in my local park. However there are a few things that do grind my gears. For the most part everyone at the park shows respect for one another, everyone takes turns and tries to stay out of each others way. Today though, I was going full speed into a bowl, and a younger kid on a BMX decided to drop in right as I was coming in, We smashed into each other but luckily I saw him coming and manage to somewhat protect myself. There were two things wrong that caused this to happen. First of all, the kid had a bike with no brakes, which is foolish unless you are really skilled and can stop before hurting someone. Secondly, he had absolutely no awareness of what was going on around him. I got pretty angry because both of us could have been seriously injured, and the kid laughed about it.

    Like I said I don’t mind Bikers, I have a lot of friends who do it. The way I see it, regardless of what you’re riding at the park, always have your head on a swivel and stay aware of what peoples intentions are.

    And for the love of god, please, do everyone a favor and put a brake on your bike.

  20. Thanks for the good article but I disagree with a couple comments and concerns. First of all there are enough bmxers out there for us to deserve our own park. Second is that skaters are way more dangerous then bikers. They have dropped in on me, let there boards hit me in the head when they lose control of the board. Third, yes pegs might mess up right behind the coping but do you have an idea how much softer rubber is then skate wheels and trucks. Also saying Seattle dosent have enough money for a bmx park is bullllllshittt. Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks are based out of this place I call home for Christ’s sakes. When up in Canada for a week (whistler,squamish) there were no rules saying no bikes. They just stated how to be careful and watch what was going on around you to avoid injury of self or others and not once did I see anyone HIT each other. Now there were a couple of accidental snakes. Also regarding the nonmoterized vehicle thing, skateboards are vehicles to… They have wheels and can move you with out you walking. When ever I have a run in with a skater I always be polite because I “don’t belong in the park” but when they talk to me they are quite rude by rolling there eyes and making nasty comments. Those are my thoughts .

  21. I ride my bike in the Woodland skatepark, but only on rainy days, I have treads that don’t slip on rain, and it’s an empty clean skatepark. But when it is dry and sunny the guards never tell me to leave even though it’s a no tolerance for BMX riders skatepark. They’re all cool and say “as long as you don’t hurt anyone with it, it’s ok.” Which I have taken seriously by getting out of the Way of skaters, I myself am a skater more than a biker, but I find that if you just respect them (even if they’re douche bags) that they’ll respect you and not call the cops.b

  22. I grew up skating seattle helped build the first sea skate I remember the era of no parks
    I wish the younglings today could understand how fortunate they are to have all these beautiful spots and all the challenges blood sweat and tears and years it took to have what we have today. when the woodland skate park opened right next to the dirt jumps I knew eventually bikes would sneak runs in whenever there was an opportunity. now I see everybody riding in harmony. communication is key as well as mutual respect for each other. hopefully one day bmx wont be a crime

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