Civil engineering junior Ryan Blunk is a skateboard enthusiast who uses his board to get around town and school, even if it’s illegal.
Cal Poly has had a ban on skateboarding on campus for more than 20 years, but the law isn’t enough to stop students such as Blunk, who question the ban.
“I skateboard everywhere I go. Everywhere,” Blunk said.
Blunk said he sees the ban as little more than an inconvenience in his transit. Though he was once pursued by a police officer on campus, he said he has yet to be ticketed for his skating, despite taking his board with him everywhere.
Blunk said he would understand if the ban was meant to protect property, but he doesn’t believe that it is necessary for pedestrian safety.
“As far as transportation goes, (skateboarding) makes it a lot easier; it’s relatively safe and it’s fun,” Blunk said.
The ban isn’t about property damage though. It is about pedestrians’ well being, according to the University Police Department (UPD). Skateboarding is especially dangerous at Cal Poly because of its terrain, UPD commander Lori Hashim said.
“Because of how the campus is situated, it’s such a hilly campus,” Hashim said. “It would just be a huge liability to have skateboards.”
To deter students from skating on campus, the UPD fines $138 for the first infraction. Even so, officers try to not hand out many citations, preferring education to punishment, Hashim said.
Students caught skating are first issued a warning. After that it’s a citation, and they are also given the choice of attending a skating safety course instead of paying a fine, Hashim said.
“We give them three opportunities to not have to pay the fine,” Hashim said.
Nonetheless, each year, even with the ban, UPD reports several skateboard-related accidents that result in serious injury, Hashim said.
But if the ban is for safety, many skaters argue that bikes should be banned as well. Biking is as much of a risk as skating, natural resources and environmental science sophomore Tyler Byington said.
“It makes no sense because if it’s a safety concern, they have no reason biking should be allowed either,” Byington said.
He said the real reason skateboards are banned is because they’re a newer form of transportation. Older generations don’t see skating as a normal way of getting from place to place, he said.
Byington himself has been skating since he was approximately 8 years old, and has been fined once for skating at Cal Poly.
“I just feel like it’s a battle of the generations,” Byington said. “Our generation, we’re raised riding these.”
The question comes back to safety and not age, though, Hashim said. Bikes come equipped with brakes, while skaters only use their feet to stop.
Every year, the UPD explains the ban to new students, and faces some backlash, but it’s not likely to change any time soon. The number of complaints from pedestrians about skaters greatly outweighs those of skaters, Hashim said.
“What (skaters) don’t realize is it’s one of our biggest complaints, not just from staff and faculty, but from fellow students as well,” Hashim said.
Still, the UPD attempts to explain the reasons for the ban to each new group of skateboarding students, UPD chief Bill Watton said.
With explanation, most students learn to accept the ban, Watton said.
“A lot of them, when we explain to them that it’s not flat, it’s pretty hilly, they usually understand,” Watton said.
And there are skating students, such as aerospace engineering sophomore Tane Martin, who obey the ban.
Martin might carry a skateboard around campus, but he only has it to ride to and from school, he said. He wants to skateboard on campus, but would rather not pay if caught, he said.
“I heard it’s a really expensive ticket,” Martin said.
Other students, like environmental management freshman Scott Swenson, openly ignore the ban, and have skated through unscathed thus far.
“It seems like the cops don’t really enforce the ban that much,” Swenson said. “I’ve skated by multiple cops, and they haven’t done anything.”