Anti-skateboard devices are now very common features of urban space. Following the “Defensible Space” concept (the idea that crime and delinquency can be controlled and mitigated through environmental design), some physical elements popped up and reshaped skateboarding practices. What is interesting is that to follow it evolves over time. The Embarcadero, in SF, is interesting for that matter. Relying from my experience of skateboarding and observation of space here are some quick thoughts:
First, skateboarders do jump (ollie, but let’s stay simple) on sidewalks, banks or benches and handrails; a specific trick done after jumping is to “grind”: i.e. to slide on the hangers of the skateboard trucks on any urban element that may fit between the space between the wheels where the truck meets. Proponent of ‘defensible space’ started by adding metal plates on benches or concrete elements:
But the problem is that it did not prevent skateboarders to do “wheelie” (which is called “wheeling” in french): jumping (Ollie) onto an obstacle and rolling all the way with the back or nose wheels (nose = front). So a new kind of elements popped up (I’ve never seem them apart from today in SF, never saw that in SoCal or European cities): bigger metal plates covering the whole obstacle:
(of course some folks removed these plates), so skateboarders were left with lower urban elements (not benches) like delimitations of space (for buses or bicycle tracks); then the marvelous urban planners heightened them with weird plates and cylindric stuff:
Why do I blog this? user/activity-centered design of skateboarding practices may have been conducted to come up with these solutions. Of course, this raises the creativity of skateboarder who will use them to create new skateboarding tricks, but that’s another story. In the end, the average pedestrian might be intrigued or pissed by all those elements that prevent him/her just to sit properly:
On a different note, I blog about that because this is important today. There are two forces at stake: one that drives urban space into this crappy defensible direction and another that tries to create more playful environments.