Longboarding has become much more popular in the past decade, not only as a hobby, but as a mode of transportation. Many people find it’s convenient to commute to school, work, or elsewhere by longboard. This increase in popularity has brought up many questions in regards to the legality of riding a longboard on public roads.
Longboarding laws vary quite a bit depending on where you ride. Many cities in the US have different laws and rules to ride safely. In this guide, we will cover how to ride within the confines of the law, but most importantly, how to stay safe while doing so.
NOTE: In this article, we will be mainly focusing on longboarding laws as it pertains to US law; However, many other countries have similar laws in place. Please research these yourself before you go longboarding.
Top 3 things to consider before you go riding
While longboarding and skateboarding can’t be anymore different, in the public’s eye, they are one in the same. Unfortunately, both can be seen as negative to those not familiar with the hobby. We are considered loiterers who aren’t considerate others or their property.
This is why choosing your location to ride is important.
Luckily for most of us, we are commuters, so we don’t usually hang out in one location for a long period of time. That being said, if you are practicing on private property, such as a parking lot or shopping plaza, private property owners have the right to deny you access to their property and worst case, ban you completely.
Local ordinances and laws are very common when it comes to longboarding and skateboarding; as it’s gotten more popular in recent years. Those laws can prevent you from riding in public parks, and any open public space including sidewalks and roads.
Always check your local city or town government laws for specific ordinances related to longboarding.
It should be common sense to wear protective gear while longboarding. Unfortunately, many do not wear sufficient protective gear. You can easily reach speeds of 40+ MPH going downhill.
For this (and many other reasons), many local governments have enacted “reckless operation” laws.
New York City is one of many cities who have enacted such laws.
The term “reckless operation” shall mean operating roller skates, in-line skates or a skateboard on a public street, highway or sidewalk in such a manner as to endanger the safety or property of another.http://www.skatecity.com/nyc/law/nyc/1996_ll0043.html
The definition is fairly loose, so if someone witnesses you riding in a manner they consider dangerous or reckless, they can report you to law enforcement.
Whether you’re riding reckless or not, you need to be aware of the perception others have while you ride.
Another thing to consider is safety gear. A California law requires that all skateboarders and longboarders (under the age of 18) are required to wear a helmet at all times while riding. It should be common sense to wear a helmet while riding, and if you don’t, you are only increasing the chance of serious injury or death. Always wear a helmet! This should be the minimum protection you wear while riding.
In addition to wearing a helmet, it’s important to wear reflective gear (regardless if you’re boarding at night). Many cars these days have lights that turn on automatically, so having something to get the drivers attention can be a matter of life or death.
It’s best to assume safety laws apply everywhere you go. By doing so, you’ll reduce your risk of getting stopped by law enforcement and you will be riding safely.
It’s nearly impossible to find a town in the US that doesn’t have a curfew law.
If you’re under the age of 18, you can be subject to these curfew laws. Curfew laws were enacted to protect children, and to prevent crime.
There are many variations to curfew laws, but you can use this tool to find what unique laws exist for your city and state.
There are exceptions for minors when it comes to curfew laws, but I couldn’t find a single exception for longboarders.
Your safest bet is to stop riding before the sun goes down.
Can you ride your longboard in the bicycle lane?
The US Department of Transportation considers longboards and skateboards as personal conveyances. In other words, they are not considered a vehicle as far as the law is concerned.
A personal conveyance is a device, other than a transport device, used by a pedestrian for personal mobility assistance, or recreation. These devices can be motorized or human powered, but not propelled by pedaling.https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/MMUCC_4th_Ed.pdf
This means that you cannot lawfully ride your longboard in the street, nor can you ride it in the bike lane. The only time you are legally allowed to ride in the street is when crossing safely at an intersection.
That being said, many people do ride their longboards in the bike lane, especially if they are commuting to work or school. Longboards are much better for commuting than skateboards, and unfortunately, the law considers them the same mode of transportation, so it’s unlikely this law will change soon.
On the bright side, since the longboard is not considered a vehicle, you won’t be subject to the same laws vehicles are subject to such as bikes and cars.
Can you ride a longboard on the sidewalk?
You might be asking yourself where you can ride your longboard if you cannot ride one on the street.
Many longboarders have the misunderstanding that they cannot ride on the sidewalk. Remember, Longboards are considered “personal conveyances”, as are roller skaters, people on foot, and disabled people in wheelchairs (motorized or not).
As such, you have every right to ride on a public sidewalk as long as you yield to other pedestrians. It’s generally a good idea to yield to people who are moving slower than you (people on foot, wheelchairs, etc).
It’s always best to check your local laws before heading out. New York City attempted to pass a law making it illegal for skateboarders to ride on the sidewalk, but fortunately, this provision was removed.
Following the unspoken rules of riding can be just as important as obeying the laws. After all, getting public support is in your best interest to having more freedom as a rider.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while riding in public.
- Alert pedestrians if you are riding up behind them by calling out and letting them know what side you will be passing them on.
- If riding at night, wear reflective clothing and use a light to let other pedestrians and vehicles know you are there.
- Assume nobody can see you (since drivers and pedestrians usually don’t anyway). You never know when a parked car door is going to open right as you are passing, or when a car pulls out from an alleyway.
- Keep an eye out for dogs and cats. They sometimes don’t know how to react when you pass by and either can be aggressive, or just get in your way. A good rule of thumb is to stop and walk with your board.
- If there is no room to ride around people on the sidewalk, just stop and walk with your board. It’s not worth risking riding in a crowded area.
- Keep clear of toddlers and the elderly. Doing quick maneuvers is difficult around people and children can be unpredictable and can dart out in front of you quickly.
Strange and Unique laws to watch out for
We’ve covered some of the more common laws to watch out for, but if you’re in one of the following locations, be sure to remember these laws.
In New York (state), if longboarding with a group of people, you are only legally allowed to ride side-by-side with one other person. If you are riding in a group of three, one of you must ride in front or behind.
In Duluth, Minnesota, there is a law that prohibits skating and longboarding on sidewalks until after 6:30PM. They have also passed laws banning skateboarding completely in parts of the city.
Unfortunately, it gets even worse in Alabama, which bans skateboard/longboard use in any commercially zoned area. Generally you only need permission from the landowner, but you might want to leave the board at home if you’re in town.
The closer you can follow the recommendations in this guide, the better experience you will have as a longboarder, and the perception of those around you will benefit you as well. The more the world can see longboarding is not just a hobby, but a form of transportation, like a car or bike, the better it will be for all.