Out for a (Safe) Spin

In Chicago, in-line skaters, bicyclists, and runners vie for space along the shores of Lake Michigan. In Boston, bicyclists swerve around runners, who jump out of the way as Rollerbladers whiz by on the banks of the Charles. In New York, joggers run with the traffic, trying to avoid cyclists and skaters in Central Park. It's the same in cities across the country.

In other words, all this fun, admirable activity can sometimes be a hazard. Over the summer, an in-line skater in Central Park died after colliding with a bicyclist. City dwellers who like to go out for a stroll say they often avoid parks and other recreational areas on nice days because there are too many people taking too few safety precautions.

So what's to be done? Safety warnings posted where runners/skaters/ riders can see them are helpful. And many cities are starting to do a better job of enforcing their own rules. New York City recently passed a law allowing police to ticket reckless in-line skaters. In some cities, skating-proficient park rangers are lacing up their skates and setting out on park paths to, among other things, hand out rule books and give safety tips.

Soon, if a law proposed by the City Council Transportation Committee is passed, rangers in New York might also start handing out $50 tickets to anyone biking or skating without a helmet. That's too bad. Statistics show that those involved in biking or skating accidents are predominantly younger people. In New York, a state law already requires anyone under 14 to wear a helmet when biking, skating, or skateboarding. The legislation, as critics point out, could keep less frequent adult bikers and skaters from even going out for a spin around the park.

Yet, as those who drafted it hoped it would, the proposed law has at least raised awareness about some problems that can crop up when parks are filled with runners, walkers, skaters, and cyclists. That awareness, in itself, should move individuals toward safer behavior - the best remedy of all.

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