Is Skateboarding a Form of Active Travel?
We saw in our guide to attitudes on local active travel that there are people using skateboards to get around. Which is one of the reasons why we say yes, skateboards are an excellent tool for active travel. When we suggest the use of skateboards as a way to get to work many people give us a funny look, but we’re going to explain why you should think about a skateboard.
We want you though to put your negative connotations of skateboarding to one side.
Faster than walking, more flexible than a bike
The heading there is two great reasons why a skateboard works well as a transport tool. The being faster than walking bit is pretty self-explanatory, especially once you’ve worked out how to ollie. Being more flexible than a bike might take some explanation.
Let us start with your cruise down to your local shop to buy a pint of milk. With your board, you pick it up and walk in with it. With your bike you have two choices, you can lock it up, or you can leave it against a wall and hope that it is still there when you come back out.
Taking your board to work will be similar. You more than likely will have to leave your bike outside. A board you can take in and stash under your desk, in a locker, or some other nook and cranny where it will be much harder to relieve you of ownership.
Try and take your bike on a bus, or even some train routes, and you’ll be pretty much out of luck. You’ll again be able to carry your board on and off with you. Yes, you can do that with a folding bike, but I guarantee a skateboard will weigh a lot less than a folding bike. This makes the humble skateboard great for multimodal transport trips.
A quality skateboard will cost you a lot less than a quality bike. There is also the advantage that no one will try and make you wear Lycra or buy clipless shoes. You can wear Lycra on a skateboard if you want, but society may wish to have a few words with you.
Currently, people using skateboards as transportation are generally people who learned to skateboard as a teenager. There is though a growth area that people have missed as they have been busy looking at other growth areas. The growth area in both recreational skateboarding and skateboarding as a tool of transport is among women. We have also seen this growth down the Wishawhill Wood Pump Track.
Active travel should be fun, and if it isn’t, then, you’re doing it wrong. The good news is that according to surveys, skateboarding is the active travel pursuit that users are most likely to enjoy.
We mentioned speed before, and we said that skateboarding is faster than walking. For the majority of skateboarders, skateboarding is 3 – 4 times faster than walking.
Compared to cycling, skateboarding is slower, but not a lot slower. The average speed of a skateboarder is 9.7 miles per hour. The average speed of a commuting cyclist is 11.9 miles per hour.
The spread here is interesting, though. Both cycling and skateboarding start at 6 miles per hour. With skateboarding topping out at 13 miles per hour and cyclists at 19 miles per hour. Yeah, some skateboards are faster than people on bikes.
Aye, but is it safe?
The majority of us all have preconceived notions of the dangers of skateboarding. Yeah, it can be dangerous if you’re throwing yourself down handrails or tearing a bowl to pieces, but if you’re not doing that and just cruising along it can be remarkably safe.
The thing to know about commuting by skateboard is that pretty much everyone will make modifications to a “trick” board or will ride a longboard derivative (don’t worry we have blogs coming here as well). In essence, the changes, such as larger and softer wheels make tricks a bit of a nightmare to do, so people tend not to be busting out switch 360 flips on their way to work.
If we judge safety by fatalities, then travelling by skateboard fits precisely in between driving and cycling on a per-trip basis. The reason here is similar to cycling in that if you are skateboarding you are in a vulnerable travel group. As with cycling then proper driver education and replanning of urban centres is the best way to improve the safety of everyone.
Fang, K., & Handy, S. (2017). Skate and die? The safety performance of skateboard travel: A look at injury data, fatality data, and rider behaviour. Journal of Transport & Health, 7, 288–297. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2017.08.010
Fang, K., & Handy, S. (2017). Skateboarding for transportation: exploring the factors behind an unconventional mode choice among university skateboard commuters. Transportation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11116-017-9796-9