If it has wheels, is it an automobile?
When it comes to streets and roadways, automobiles and pedestrians aren’t the only players in the game. Bicycles and pedicabs are typical in most cities, but skateboarders, roller skaters, and people on scooters are also becoming increasingly prevalent.
There’s the common stereotype of skateboarders being rebels who despise authority, a stereotype that often answers the question, “why is skateboarding illegal in public places?” However, the reality of this 4 or 8-wheeled transportation is quite different from the stereotype. Here’s what you need to know if you skateboard, roller blade, or share the road with people who do.
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What are the rules of skateboarding?
Like so many legal questions, the answer to this one depends on where you are. The rules that apply to skateboarding, rollerblading, and similar activities vary widely from state to state and even from city to city. Often these laws are grouped with laws that apply to bicycles and bike rentals, but that is not always the case and some municipalities enact laws specifically aimed at skate boarding.
There are a number of reasons for the laws that apply to skateboarders. For example, some laws aimed at keeping skating out of crowded places are keeping pedestrians safe on the sidewalks. Other laws, such as ones that don’t allow skateboarding at night, aim to make the sport safer but also reflect the negative stereotype of rebellious skaters.
Many cities are trying to take a measured approach to laws governing these alternate means of transportation. Recently the City of New Orleans considered a pilot program that would have paved the way for scooter rentals. However, after consideration the City decided to wait until the infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists was accomplishing its goals before expanding to scooters.
So, is it legal to skateboard on the sidewalk?
Once again, it depends on where you are. Some cities have elected to specifically allow skateboarding and skating on sidewalks. Other cities or towns have laws that say just the opposite, that skateboarders are allowed on the roads but not the sidewalks.
And in other cities, such as New Orleans, skateboarders and roller skaters live in a legal gray area. They are not defined as bicyclists under the law, so it is not clear if they are permitted to skate in the roads or bike lanes, however, they also risk being ticketed on the sidewalks for “obstruction of a public passage.”
Many groups within the city are actively working to make it a more welcoming place for skateboarders by building and expanding skate parks and working with local legislatures. If skaters were allowed in the bike lanes, this would mean that skaters have to follow the same laws as bicyclists, with requirements such as lights and hand signals.
In recent years, New Orleans has updated its laws to protect bicyclists by requiring:
- Bicyclists (and drivers with broken turn signals) must use hand signals at turns
- However, cyclists are not required to hold the signal during the entire turn if the arm is needed to control the bicycle.
RESOURCE: Hand Signal Guide via NHTSA
Nighttime bike riding equipment
- A bell or horn
- Front and back lights that are visible from 500 feet.
Passing distance for motorists
- Vehicles must leave at least 3 feet between the automobile and the bicycle when passing.
- A driver can only pass another vehicle on the right when the other vehicle is turning left and the street is wide enough for two cars without going onto the shoulder. This law still allows cyclists to use the shoulder to pass.
- Drivers must use caution opening car doors and can only leave them open long enough to allow passengers to enter and exit.
- Cyclists making a left turn are permitted to ride as close to the left curb as possible.
- Bicycles cannot ride more than two wide and can only pass in larger groups on designated trails.
NOTE: Pedestrians have the right of way when appropriately crossing signed streets.
What if you’re in an accident on skateboard?
Although the particular circumstances of your accident can make a difference, you will likely have a claim for injuries just like you would if you were injured by something else. There are two main types of skating accidents: vehicle collisions and injuries that occur on property owned by someone else.
In a vehicle collision, an insurance adjuster or jury will also look at whether the skater was being reasonable and following the appropriate laws of the jurisdiction. If someone was skating on the road in a city where skating is only allowed in designated parks, the skater may be found partially at fault for his injuries.
Likewise, if a skater is injured by falling while skating on someone else’s property there may be a claim against the owner. However, like vehicle collisions a court will also look to whether the skater was breaking any laws in the first place that might have contributed to the accident. The dangerous tricks inherent in skateboarding will always increase a skater’s risk of injury and could be used to reduce the amount an injured skater can recover through comparative liability.
Have you been injured in an accident while skateboarding, biking, or skating?
If you were injured in an accident, contact us for a free case evaluation. We will work with you on a contingency-fee basis to gather evidence and prove your case. An attorney can determine what types of claims you have so that you can recover what you deserve, even if you are partially at fault for the accident. You may be eligible to file a claim for medical costs, emotional distress and further damages. Fill out our free case evaluation form to see if you are eligible for a claim. An experienced personal injury attorney at Morris Bart will assist you in the evaluation process. Initial consultations are free. We have office locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. Call us at 1-800-537-8185 today.