Panel applies brakes to skate ban

NASHUA – A standing-room-only crowd of teens holding skateboards sat beside inline-skating adults in the aldermanic chamber in City Hall on Wednesday to protest a proposal to ban skateboards and skating from city streets.

Outspoken skateboard fans and parents of skaters easily outnumbered people favoring the ban, as close to two dozen speakers gave aldermen an earful.

Ban supporters said they want the rule to keep children and teens away from dangerous streets. Others said the safety issue is to mask an effort to prohibit skateboards, particularly around Roy Street.

Aldermen on the Infrastructure Committee voted to hold the legislation in the face of the opposition.

Committee members, including co-sponsors of the ordinance, seemed cool to the idea of implementing the citywide prohibition of skateboarding and roller-skating, among other activities, in the street.

“I couldn’t ban this,” said Alderman-at-Large Paula Johnson, a co-sponsor of the legislation, after hearing from many opponents of the proposal.

“I get the message,” said Ward 5 Alderman David Lozeau, who said earlier he did not realize that the legislation banned skateboarding throughout the city and would not support it under those circumstances.

Some aldermen said residents have the right to enjoy their home, and neighbors talking with each other should resolve the issue. Others said the law makes it illegal to put jumping ramps and other skateboarding devices in city streets.

A few Roy Street residents complained about skateboarders in the road and other difficulties that come from groups of skateboarders.

Janet Valuk said a spotlight on the street to illuminate the ramps blinded her when she came into the neighborhood.

The skateboarders put themselves in a bad spot where drivers cannot see them, she said.

Ron Cote said the skateboard ramps are not moved when cars drive by, forcing cars into other lanes. The situation can be dangerous for skateboards and drivers, he said.

Cote, along with others, suggested a skateboarding park in the south part of the city would help the young people and residents.

But others said the ordinance was too broad, taking both adults and children off the road.

Elizabeth Kolb of Pine Hill Road said she is outside using inline skates, but the ordinance would take the fun away because there is no sidewalk to use and the law affects everyone, no matter the age.

“I feel adults should be able to make their own decision about safety,” Kolb said.

Jared Pelletier of Tolles Street was one of the many young people who spoke out. He told aldermen the ban would do serious damage to young people who practice hard on their skateboards.

“It’s a way of life,” he said.

Mike Cleary of Roy Street said skateboarders quickly get out of the way of drivers.

“If you honk at us, we will move out of your way,” the teenager said.

Nashua police Capt. John Suesing told the board the proposed ordinance did not resolve the 23 complaints fielded by police officers in two months time.

The proposal will not resolve the biggest problem with skateboarders, which is riding on private property, he said.