Sharing with skaters: if Melbourne can, why not Alice?

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

If a busy city like Melbourne can share its streets with skate-boarders, so can Alice Springs. That’s the message Councillor Chansey Paech took to the Town Council meeting last night, distributing copies of Melbourne’s Skate Management Plan and its Skate Safe program for them to read and reflect upon.

 

At left: The City of Melbourne has encouraged a flourishing youth culture. Here we see a skater enjoying the street and the street art in a back alley off Flinders Street in the Melbourne CBD.

 

The Alice Springs News reported in December 2, 2010 on Melbourne’s very different approach to welcoming youth and activity in its public places. The City’s website introduces the subject with this sentence: “The City of Melbourne encourages all young people to use the city, including skaters.” It goes on to outline a code of conduct for skaters and BMX riders:

 

• use your head and skate/ ride according to your ability

• stay in control so you’re ready to stop when you need to

• slow down when overtaking pedestrians

• give way to people in front and beside you

• wear the right safety gear

• don’t bunch up when travelling in groups

• walk through congested areas

• slow down when passing young children and older people

• avoid sessioning in the CBD and Docklands (keep it for the skate parks)

• respect sensitive sites and furniture and avoid getting a penalty

• some routes get pretty busy – avoid these.

 

This does not mean anything goes, but the City sensibly realizes that its by-laws already cover the appropriate contingencies, with fines of up to $500 for property damage, causing a nuisance, causing excessive noise or endangering others.

 

Cr Paech told councillors that there was no mention in the Melbourne documents of elderly citizens being run down by skate-boarders.

 

He foreshadowed that he would be moving to amend the council’s public places by-laws in the coming weeks to be inclusive, rather than exclusive of skaters.

 

What better place for council to do this than in the revitalized northern Todd Mall, where a facility has been designed to be inclusive of them, he asked.

 

Cr Paech referred to the high level of support for such a move on social media, suggesting that it reflected a “changing dynamic” in town. Skaters should not be “segregated” from the rest of the community, confined in just one place in town, the Skate Park.

 

He hoped council would welcome a forthcoming deputation of skaters and supporters. One of them at least was in the public gallery last night, listening to the debate on the issue – former professional skateboarder Matty Day, whom we quoted in our 2010 report. He has since become an important figure on the local youth services scene.

 

Mayor Damien Ryan asked whether Cr Paech’s proposals would be for the entire CBD or for the northern mall only. Cr Paech said he’d like to start off with the northern mall and “see how it goes” before looking further.

 

The mood on council was more supportive than previously. Deputy Mayor Liz Martin said her mother had been hit by a skate-boarder outside Yeperenye, yet she still thought it would be worth looking at a Skate Safe type of program as a “necessary way of engaging with youth”. (She had taken a call from an American resident in Alice, who described a similar program operating in the US.)

 

Cr Eli Melky pointed out that there’s now a lot of space at the northern end of the mall. He would support Cr Paech’s proposals for that area “especially after we went out and designed seating that was skate-board friendly”.

 

Council’s Director of Technical Services Greg Buxton told the Alice News that the additional cost to strengthen the four seats to withstand the impact of skating was approximately $12,000.

 

Cr Brendan Heenan, previously against any change, asked only that council’s legal officer be asked about the liability implications.

 

Cr Jade Kudrenko said she “whole-heartedly” supported Cr Paech in relation to a change in the northern mall.

 

Cr Paech in a media release said the Melbourne approach “shows how the community and interest groups like skaters can work together in creating vibrant shared spaces in busy cities.

 

“We can be proactive in encouraging active recreation activities like skateboarding and encourage young people to take some ownership and pride in our public spaces, especially when they have been purpose built to allow this.

 

“The original plans signed off by the previous council for the redevelopment of the northern end of the Mall included the installation of skateable street furniture, which is in place but out of bounds to skaters.

 

“This doesn’t make much sense to me.

 

“I’m not advocating open slather to skateboarders, but I am sure we can come to an arrangement that would allow skaters to utilise the street furniture, ensure pedestrian, driver and skater safety, and boost greater public use of the revitalised northern end of the Todd Mall.”

 

RELATED READING in Alice Springs News Online:

 

For story and comments: No you can’t 🙁

 

Cops and skaters now coexist in the mall

 

 

 

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6 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Over It
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    100% behind Chancey. It’s time to do more things for the youths around Alice Springs. I remember growing up and there was ton’s of stuff that youths could do and to be honest there was less crime because of it.
    If our youth were given opportunities to do the things that they love to do then we have a better chance at steering our youth in the right direction in their lives.
    We need to cater to the youths’ needs, as times have changed and Alice needs to change too!!
    Surely pedestrians could make some compromises? After all it is the community who are wanting to change the youth crime rate in Alice so let’s give them what they need to also enjoy our town …

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  2. Mike Gillam
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    All those commenting (here and previously at “No you can’t”) raise valid points so there should be ways around this impasse.
    The mall ‘revitalisation’ is a work in progress and hopefully future works and management strategies might improve ‘separation’ between skate boarders and pedestrians.
    On the west side, the multi purpose benches run parallel to a section of the Alice Plaza that does not actively engage with the street so the impact on adjacent businesses could be overcome.
    Pedestrians still need a defined walkway beside the building so they’re not forced to ease through a group of absorbed or territorial teenagers. Opposite, the Westpac bank actively engages with the mall and the use of nearby benches by a skating fraternity might conceivably disturb its customers and staff during opening hours.
    What’s the best uses of this community furniture? There are many ways of separating user groups.
    Skate boarders need sitting benches too – like all performance art the audience can use a seat and preferably not the one that’s being used for skating.
    By way of example, the benches on both sides might be open to skaters after 5 pm weekdays and perhaps the benches on the west side are available throughout the day on weekends while the east side is reserved for sitting.
    The issues need very careful consideration and perhaps slowing down the debate in Council might allow this to occur.

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  3. Ray
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    The council spent an additional $12,000 strengthening the seats so they could take the impact of skateboards, even though the by-laws do not permit skateboards where the seats are?
    Does this mean the council approved spending on these seats without any of them asking why are they so expensive. If they were told it was so skateboards could use them, surely at least one of the 12 would have realised that something was amiss.
    How many other things does this council approve without questioning the cost? $12,000 for 4 seats?
    Secondly the Melbourne “guidelines” state that sessioning (does that simply mean skateboarding?) should be avoided in the CBD and Docklands, yet Councillor Paech wants to do the opposite of the guidelines he quotes, as the mall IS our CBD.
    It is also obvious by the photo, that this skater has also ignored the guidelines which say that the “right” safety gear should be worn, as he is clearly not wearing any.
    Which other guidelines will the skaters choose to ignore? Accidents can happen, that’s why they are called accidents.
    The first rule of risk control is remove the hazard, administrative controls, (which are the guidelines) are way down the list. Personally, I hope other councilors vote against this. I prefer the mall the way it is.

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  4. Hal Duell
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I have a lot of time for skateboarders. It’s a highly skilled activity, and at its best, not for the timid.
    But to mix skaters and pedestrians seems to me to be asking for trouble. By all means mix it up on the new road – cars, bikes, skates and pedestrians. But in the pedestrian only areas? Who will cover the legal costs the first time a collision happens?
    I ride a bike, and when I get to the Mall, I get off and walk. Or I do almost all the time. And when I don’t, I slow way down and am aware that if sprung, a hefty fine could be coming my way.
    Both bikes and skates travel faster than pedestrians, and no one on foot is comfortable hearing that ‘whoosh’ as something goes sailing by. Children would not be as safe with skaters or bike riders allowed, and nor would the slower elderly. Think about it.

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  5. Steve Brown
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I’m a bit concerned by comments in this discussion by supposedly mature adults that seem to encourage Skaters to see themselves as excluded or discriminated against.
    This is not a class or race issue, nobody is being segregated, discriminated against.
    People who ride skateboards aren’t being asked to stay out of the Mall they are being asked not to ride their skateboards in the mall!
    They are absolutely welcome to walk through the Mall and participate in legal activities just like everyone else, and while I don’t have much issue with them riding through the Mall on the road, when and only when it is open to traffic, I certainly do have issue with riding on the foot paths through the pedestrian traffic.
    I also take issue with the concept of skating the Furniture! While it may be strong enough for skating because it has to be, it is designed and intended to be seating, people sitting on a seat and people trying to skate a seat do not mix!
    The two activities are mutually opposed. Council has opted for seating as opposed to skating because everybody including the skating fraternity sit, only a very few skate!
    Those seemingly intent on developing a insular sub culture would be doing the whole community a service by spending their energies working on projects and activities that encourage empathy and inclusion. They could begin by encouraging our youth to take a holistic view of our community and perhaps reach an understanding that many kinds of activities are mutually exclusive.
    After all we cant jump the seating on our motor bikes either or play cricket or baseball or invite the archery or shooting club in either can we?
    So let’s bring some common sense to this issue. Maybe we can reach an arrangement that allows skaters to ride through on the road, perhaps access to the furniture once a month on a given day.
    Meanwhile why don’t Skaters and those purporting to be their advisers take note of their own rules “walk through congested areas” just like the rest of us!
    As for the Melbourne laneway “Mmmmm Yeh”, very interesting I’m sure. We are talking about our main street, not some divy little unused back alley, although the kind of activity portrayed could fairly rapidly turn it into one.

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  6. John Malpas
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    And if you are not a skate boarding youth? Maybe a you are a money spending age 40 or even an elderly 70 – no room for these?

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