NYC has been steadily adding skateparks across the five boros over that past several years. That’s great, but they’ve also been skate stopping more and more street spots in public places. The parks are fun and all…but nothing compares to the feeling of skating down the city streets and hitting spots along the way. It’s in the name: street skating! We’re killer whales that prefer to roam free. Unfortunately, the cities attitude towards skating definitely treats us like Shamu, with skateparks serving as holding tanks separating us from the public.
Paris has taken a different approach. It’s one I would love to see more of in the States. They’ve developed a way to add stateable architecture in public spaces. Areas where skateboarders were already drawn to. Republique for example, was a flat ground plaza with a couple obstacles that skaters would spend their day at. Volcom worked with the city, moving the smaller obstacles to a second spot. In addition, they built a completely new setup at the original area. Pedestrians, cyclists, tourists, and skaters all make use of the same area. It blends into the landscape without being an eyesore. Working it out like this also aides in changing public opinion about skaters. Something that putting us in boxes doesn’t do at all.
Until this past July, I had no idea this kind of thing was even possible. I was spending some time with friends in Paris and they took me skating without telling me where we were going. Imagine my surprise as we turn the corner down a random street to find that its closed off to cars and has one of the most fun setups I’ve seen. My friends Mattieu and Corrine had big grins on their faces because they knew I had never seen anything like it. I want to compare it to something in New York, but I’m at a loss. I think the closest thing would be like rolling up to Tompkins, but without having to move for softball games and not having everything we put there get taken away over time.
If other cities adopted this model I believe it could be a great thing for skateboarding. Not only does it help non-skaters view us in a new light, it makes it more accessible to everyone. When people have access, they have a path to understanding. Skateboarding will be viewed negatively as long as it remains a separate oddity. The same people who cried that skateboarding is not a crime, feel weird about it being in the Olympics. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If skateboarding is to be accepted it has to be more open and I think Paris is bridging that gap.