University of Utah police are proposing new rules to curb dangerous skateboarding with a policy change that could disallow all recreational riding on campus, including bikes.
"There are plenty of places to skateboard. Streets, sidewalks and parking structures on campus are not the place to do it," said U. police Chief Scott Folsom. Increasingly, young boarders are coming up to campus to speed down the hill to the city, creating potential hazards and at least one collision where a professor was injured, he said.
"A lot of the kids are not trying to hurt somebody, but they can't stop, they're out of control," Folsom said
The U. Board of Trustees is expected to consider the new policy at its May 28 meeting. If approved, the rules could go into effect immediately, though officials say they are envisioning a longer roll-out.
"We've really tried to strike a balance," said Robert Payne, U. associate general counsel. "There were some voices that said 'No more.' We hope it works to tone things down."
The U.'s Academic Senate narrowly approved the new policy this week, following a tie-breaking vote from the president. The faculty body stipulated that police come back in the fall to reconsider whether the language is too harsh.
According to the policy, "any recreational, athletic, or other use of a non-motorized riding device on university premises unrelated to participation in university-related activities is strictly prohibited," except on Bonneville Shoreline Trail paths. Commuting between classes, lectures or other U. activities would be allowed.
Police could confiscate boards if riders don't provide proper ID, and levy fines for further offenses. Riders are now prohibited from going faster than 10 mph or out of control, but police have to witness the offense, making the rules hard to enforce, Folsom said.
Keith Bartholomew, an associate dean in the College of Architecture and Planning, said he's experienced skateboarders being aggressive when he's teaching class outside.
"They are trying to get us to leave their location because we're sitting on benches they grind on," he said. "I'm all in favor of this."
But other professors urged the police not to go too far.
"Do we really want to be driving kids out of a safe place to skateboard on the street? That's a lot worse," said biology professor Gary Rose.
Fellow biology professor Jack Longino said the skaters are part of a vibrant urban campus.
"It makes it seem like a happening place," he said. "I just grin when they go by."
Salt Lake City residents John Coconis and Andy Gionnette rode bikes up to the U. on a recent afternoon looking to eat at an on-campus restaurant.
"I used to ride down the hill a lot," said Coconis, a former student, pointing out a clamp-down could cut off the campus from other city initiatives promoting human-powered transportation, such as bike lanes. "I don't know how they're really going to enforce it."
"It baffles me as to why they have to pass a new law," Gionnette said.
Meanwhile, chemistry graduate student Jeff Cross wondered how students on bikes or skateboards could prove they were legally commuting between classes.
"I would not want to see a ban," he said. "I think they need to do a better job enforcing what they've got."