Skaters have taken to the streets with newfound liberties on campus this fall.
Parking and Transportation Services revised its policy to allow skateboards, scooters and in-line skates on campus everywhere bicycles are allowed. Under the new policy, skating may only be used as a mode of transportation and not for tricks or stunts.
Nikolas Lazaris, president of student skateboarding organization Texas Downhill, said the support from Parking and Transportation Services legitimizes skating as transportation and Texas Downhill as a student organization. Texas Downhill first registered with the University almost a year before skateboarding was first allowed on campus.
“I have already noticed more riders on campus and Texas Downhill has tripled its size since last semester,” Lazaris said. “There are a lot of riders on campus after the policy change.”
Members said the group grew from fewer than 10 regulars last year to more than 30 this semester.
Alternative transportation manager Blanca Juarez said passionate students who advocated heavily for a reasonable approach to skateboarding helped change the policy.
“Skateboarding has always represented a sustainable form of transportation that, if coupled with safety measures, could be beneficial to the University as a whole,” Juarez said.
Juarez said it was difficult to get the policy change off the ground because it had to be approved by the Parking and Traffic Policies Committee, a group of students and faculty members that meet to establish regulations on campus.
“There was concern about safety issues, especially based on the large number of pedestrians on campus,” Juarez said. “Ultimately, it was decided that skateboarders could be trusted to act responsibly and could operate much like bicycles on campus.”
She said PTS has not received any negative responses since the policy change.
“We believe that if skateboarders operate on campus in a safe and responsible manner, then the lack of issues will confirm that this was a positive choice for the University,” Juarez said.
Joshua Harmon, biology senior and Texas Downhill member, said although the ban has been lifted, everyone should learn proper safety techniques before riding around campus.
“It does not matter how good you are, you will hurt yourself or someone else at one point,” Harmon said. “Respect the University’s decision and don’t plow through stop signs or pedestrians on the way to class.”
Marisa Garcia, biology sophomore and vice president of Texas Downhill, said she is glad she no longer has to look over her shoulder while skating to class.
“Just being able to skate freely and not have to worry about warnings, fines or getting your name on record if they caught you skating one too many times is a weight off all our shoulders,” Garcia said.
She said PTS lifting the ban also lifted tension between campus police and student skaters. UTPD did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
“Before, cops were just trying to do their job by stopping us, but skaters did not understand the reasoning as to why boarding on campus was so wrong,” Garcia said. “It was a constant battle and now that it’s legal, they can see we truly just want a safe place to skate.”
Printed on Thursday, September 27, 2012 as: Time to free skate