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.
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.