The fast and the injurious

2020-02-25 06:03
The Eyethu Hout Bay Skate Park offers skateboarders a safe environment to practice their sport. It is hoped the park will discourage the youth from participating in downhill skateboarding.

The Eyethu Hout Bay Skate Park offers skateboarders a safe environment to practice their sport. It is hoped the park will discourage the youth from participating in downhill skateboarding.

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Who hasn’t felt that jolt of panic when you slam on your car’s brakes to avoid hitting your neighbour’s dog?

Now replace that cute, little, furry face with that of a pre-adolescent boy on a skateboard, bearing down on you at breakneck speed.

For many years now, youth between the ages of 8 and 15 have been skateboarding down steep roads in Hangberg, scaring the living daylights out of motorists.

By lying flat on their boards, the kids attain high speeds as they skate down sloping roads.

In 2016, the Guinness fastest skateboard speed downhill record stood at 143.89km/h.

Roberto Quintas, councillor for ward 74, says a recent incident where a youth got hurt as he slipped underneath a vehicle has driven him to action.

“This is dangerous for the boys and road users and it is a miracle that there have been no fatalities at this stage,” says Quintas.

While the sight of skateboarders speeding down Karbonkel Road and Suikerbossie Hill is a familiar one, the practice also started to rear its head on Edward Road and Chapman’s Peak Drive about a year ago.

Quintas says although this doesn’t happen every day, it occurs often enough to be cause for concern. He will meet with roads officials within the next few weeks to discuss infrastructure solutions. He also plans to meet with a few local non-profit organisations to look at ways to educate the youth on the dangers of this kind of behaviour.

“Community interventions by the Walking Bus and visible law enforcement have been primary deterrents in the past, however, these are only successful when people and personnel are available. The speed bumps are unsuccessful as deterrents as youth simply ‘fly over these’,” he says.

Richard Coleman, the spokesperson for City of Cape Town’s traffic service, says the core function of Walking Bus members is to walk learners to and from schools, ensuring their safe passage.

“The members are aware of this occurrence and do make the learners aware of the dangers of downhill speed skating. The members have also informed the (local) school, who, in turn, have made the parents aware of this, as it is happening during school hours,” says Coleman.

He says Traffic service does not know of any recent accident because of this activity.

“Traffic service has not received many complaints in this regard. We react on complaints from the public and address it when complaints are made,” he says.

Coleman says the racing occurs when the roads are quiet, also on weekends and after school.

“Skateboarding on a public road is illegal. There is a risk of personal injury and property damage,” he says.

Quintas encourages youth to rather make use of the two skateboarding facilities available in Hout Bay – the Lions Market at the Hout Bay Common, which offers skate tracks and features for performing agility manoeuvres, as well as the Eyethu Hout Bay Skate Park opened at the Hout Bay Sports Complex in June last year.

An initiative of the Rotary Club of Hout Bay (RCHB), Eyethu was built for the youth from the diverse communities in the area.

The idea for the facility was developed four years ago by the skate park community and RCHB after one of the club’s members, Keith Bull, saw a child almost killed after skating down a side road onto the main road.

After running into problems with funding for the construction of the skate park in 2017, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (CCPB) responded to pleas for corporate support.

“The skate park is a fantastic space where everyone can come together, for the love of skateboarding, while also forging stronger ties,” says Priscilla Urquhart, public affairs and communications manager for CCPB.

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