Should have chosen baseball

Cheetah Tchudi is a senior at the ICDA High School in Reno.

I am a law-breaker, a criminal. I steal nothing. I don’t hurt or offend anybody. I do no damage or disturb anything, yet the police will pursue me on sight. I am a skateboarder, a perpetrator of a crime that’s consuming this country.

How can it be possible that a simple toy that brings amusement and a sense of accomplishment to a growing number of people is not permitted in parts of Reno? How can a nationally recognized sport with independent events like the X Games and Gravity Games be illegal?

I’m not denying the potential damage to private and public property if tricks and techniques are not correctly performed. But that’s not my focus. Instead, I want to address the overall attitude towards skaters.

I’ll give you an example. After having lunch with a friend, we proceed back to the car. He’s on foot, and I’m atop my skateboard. I match pedestrian speed as we continue to converse. But we are interrupted when police officers on bicycles tell me to get off my board. I offer my usual flow-of-traffic argument, but I am ultimately shut down. Then the officers proceed down the sidewalk on their bicycles at double to triple the speed that I’d been going. The transaction leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I’m tired of being commanded instead of informed. I’ve talked with really interesting police officers. I’ve skated with great police officers. But most of the time, the greetings I receive are not polite or friendly. The attitude of the enforcer makes a big difference in the response. Respect is earned—not enforced.

Reno City Ordinance Section 6.60.020 states: “It is unlawful for any person to use a skateboard, coaster, roller skates, roller blades or any similar device upon a sidewalk within the boundaries of the downtown district.” Other city laws address skating in traffic and on private property.

The ordinance doesn’t seem that bad on paper. But when I ask people if they have ever gotten in trouble for skateboarding, I see a very different side to this law. I hear stories about boards taken away, tickets issued and, believe it or not, a large number of arrests and handcuffings.

OK, I had better not skate at the mall. No problem, right? I’ll just skate to one of my local skate parks. But how can I? The park is on the other side of town. I would just skate down the street, but I’m banned from the road.

This is not the case everywhere. There are campuses where you can skate from class to class without fear of a fine. The sidewalks of Berkeley, Calif., are open to travelers of foot and wheel. Even in the busy streets of San Francisco, I can take a lane, like a bicycle, and travel unconfronted by police.

But, in Reno, for the most part, you’re better off playing baseball.