As students, faculty and pedestrians make their way down 13th street towards the University of Oregon, it is visible what methods of transportation are popular (and unpopular) in Eugene. Around noon on Friday, October 12, I observed the traffic on 13th street between Hillyard and Patterson.
Eugene, like the majority of big cities in Oregon, is full of bikers. The eco-friendly Pacific Northwest sets the bar for the rest of the nation when it comes to transportation and keeping our air clean. Alternative methods of transportation are very popular in cities like Eugene. Carpooling, city bus and bicycle are some of the more popular alternatives. Skateboarding, however, is not one. Although the University of Oregon has undergraduates skating left and right on campus, it is actually illegal in Eugene to be riding a skateboard in a non-designated skating area. This means that both public sidewalks and bike lanes are not accessible (by law) to skaters. This does not mean that everybody abides by these rules, however.
Within 15 minutes of observing people on 13th street, I learned something very unsettling as an active skateboarder myself. Generally speaking, people in Eugene do not like skateboarders. During my 45 minutes time of observation, I counted at least a dozen skateboarders passing by. I’d say roughly only one quarter of them rode on the sidewalk, the rest in the bike lane. Personally, I prefer riding in the bike lane over sidewalk when I skate to campus from my apartment on 13th and High. The cement on the sidewalk is much more uneven and dangerous than the asphalt in the bike lane.
Unfortunately for myself and other skaters, I learned very quickly through my observation that bikers hate this. Skateboarders I saw were generally slower, louder and failed to stay in a straight line, making it hard for others to pass. The reactions I witnessed by some bikers spoke volumes to me. Detest is the best word to describe the look on their faces.
In one incident, a skater was riding in the bike lane, but heading in the opposite direction of traffic. Incoming cars, bikers and even another skater passed by, all of whom shook their head or looked upset. One biker even shouted, “Get out of the road!” as he passed by.
It’s difficult for skaters to overcome this negative image that is connotative with the sport. After spending time on 13th street this Friday, though, I’ve seen first hand why people may view skateboarding in a negative light. Personally as a skater, I found it upsetting to see other skaters conduct themselves so poorly to the public eye that is already judging them.