For the past 33 years, Skateboarding has been banned in the downtown section of Grand Rapids, Michigan. On Tuesday May 12, 2015 local lawmakers decided unanimously (7-0) to lift the ban on skateboarding downtown GR following a year of lobbying efforts by Grand Rapids citizens, DGRI and Bustin Boards employee, Mike Dallas (YOURS TRULY). Wild to think that skateboarding has been illegal in my hometown for 33/34 years of my existence, yet I grew up skating in Grand Rapids and have never received a ticket for skateboarding, ever. I’ll be the first to admit that skateboarding was a hell of a lot of fun when it was illegal, but our first rip after the city council meeting was bananas! It felt so good! I even cried a little..
Chapter 165 of Grand Rapids City Code now permits skateboarding on all public roadways and alleys, effective immediately. The Ordinance Amendment titled, “Skateboarding” was drafted by Grand Rapids City Attorney and approved by City Commission. The new ordinance mirrors local bicycle laws, permitting skaters to operate in the vehicular lane of traffic. Skaters under age 15 are permitted to use the sidewalk and must wear a helmet and after dusk, skaters must wear an article of reflective clothing.
Now, you might not believe me when I say this. But, I bet a silent wager with myself about 1 year ago while planning the inaugural State Games of Michigan Urban Downhill Skateboarding event Downtown Grand Rapids that we would fight to lift the ban on skateboarding, and we’d notch a W by 2015. No, not schizophrenia, and I dont know anyone called Smeagle. But yes, I did wager with oneself.
I had this vision while trying to pull a permit for the first State Games of Michigan Urban Downhill Skateboard event (GRDH). Planning my first DH event was smooth, except skateboarding Downtown Grand Rapids was illegal – so we had to have a special permit to override Chapter 165 of City Code titled, “No Skateboarding”. Frequent visits to the Cop Shop and City Hall made me realize we were making waves among city officials, and the officials were regular Joe’s, with an open ear. Grand Rapids core downtown population is young and progressive, and the urban design of the city is perfect for commuting. Rather than City Officials focusing on allowing a 4-hour skateboard event Downtown,we needed to shift our focus to lifting the ban on skateboarding in general. That’s what we did.
In 2014, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc (DGRI) granted a 4-hour permit for GRDH, the first time skateboarding was permitted in GR since 1982. This year, Grand Rapids Urban Downhill will not need a special permit, because skateboarding is approved on GR’s downtown streets! I would have never even had that meeting if it wasn’t for this man, David Rosen. I met David on a whim, while ou fer a rip with my daughter Brooklyn on my Dad bike. Saw this dude mowing his lawn with a classic push-reel motorless lawn mower, and he was wearing the same checkered Vans slip on’s as me. he also had a dope house and it was for sale. I was in the market for a home – so Brooklyn and I stopped to say hello. Such a nice man, Dr. Rosen, to allow a stranger his in his home for a random tour. Even more random he was the President of Kendall College of Art & Design, and I was looking for a Title Sponsor for GRDH – blocks away from his home.
In a 2014 interview with Marcus Bandy of Wheelbase Magazine, I mentioned a vision of lifting the ban on skateboarding in Grand Rapids – naming GRDH a “Trojan Horse for Legalization”. While skateboarding may have not been an important agenda item on the Commissioner’s menu, State Games of Michigan Urban Downhill Skateboarding event proved that skateboarding is a viable mode of transportation in GR and City Council expressed interested in change.
DGRI appointed an action-team led by Lynee Wells to take care of the red-tape, Fox 17’s Christian Frank used his production studio as a platform for community awareness, Commissioner Walt Gutowski (longboard commuter) educated his commissioner peers on the benefits of longboarding, City Attorney Catherine Misch spent countless hours drafting new amendments until the commissioners were happy, and then our AWESOME Mayor George Heartwell called for a final vote resulting unanimously in our favor. Yay for skateboarding! and Yay for our City Commission!
Skateboarding is legal in Grand Rapids!! Now what??? Less of these.