The idea is driven by neighbors' worries that with the increasing popularity of skating the steep streets, tragedy is inevitable—skaters are crashing into cars and it's only a matter of time before someone dies.
But state statistics show a different story: That major skater-involved vehicle crashes are actually very rare.
The Oregon Department of Transportation tracks crashes that are reported to police—that means they're bad enough to have some injury. The state lumps skateboarders into a "pedestrian" category that includes people using wheelchairs, roller skates, and non-motorized scooters, as well as skateboards. From 2009 to December 2011, there were 41 crashes of this type in Portland. The vast majority—33—occurred east of the river. Only one crash was reported on the Southwest streets targeted by the ban.
It doesn't show up in the state stats yet, but neighbors say that two more crashes involving skateboarders and vehicles have happened in 2012.
Portland Police Spokesman Pete Simpson says the central precinct has gotten a handful of radio calls complaining about noise on the hill (which is also known for hosting Zoobomb), but they have not recently had any reports of property damage.
"The Zoobomb route hasn't really been patrolled much recently. They sort of self-police, we haven't dedicated a lot of energy to sitting up there because there haven't been many issues," says Simpson. "We can spend our resources where they're needed elsewhere."
Commander Mike Crebs, who worked on a committee with skaters and neighbors for the past couple months, does not have an up-or-down opinion on the ban, but notes that it's hard to enforce current laws with skateboards and a ban won't necessarily help. "It is very difficult to pull over a skateboarder. How do you get him to stop without hurting him?" says Crebs. "If you ban it, there will be some people who say, "Okay," but there will be others who just say it makes another exciting challenge."
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