Public Safety, Liability, and Why Here?The Friends of LOVE Park has been in ongoing negotiations with the City of Philadelphia Managing Director’s Office. The City has identified two major concerns that FOLP has since addressed in its Balanced Solution.
The first concern was funding. However, with the recent promise of $1,000,000 from DC Shoes, as well as tens of thousands in private and corporate donations, FOLP has demonstrated that funding for the park’s continued upkeep will not be a problem. It will certainly not fall on the shoulders of taxpayers. The Friends of LOVE Park will manage the money, ensure that the park is well-maintained, and engage in continued fundraising.
The City’s other major concern has been public safety. This is also a concern that has been echoed by citizens. The purpose of this paper is to explain how FOLP’s Balanced Solution addresses the issue of safety in LOVE Park.
Public SafetySome pedestrians do not feel safe passing though a space with skateboarders. At lunchtime, the park is filled with people eating, to the point that with skateboarders the park may become overpopulated. In FOLP’s Balanced Solution, we propose the following steps to protect skateboarders and pedestrians, and make the space work as a multi-use environment:
- Limit skateboarding hours: LOVE Park is a popular spot for downtown workers to have lunch. For this reason we propose allowing skateboarding only after 3:00 PM on the weekdays, and all day on the weekends. Other cities around the world have found success with a similar solution, allowing skateboarding in public spaces only during certain hours. At the same time, the presence of skateboarders will give LOVE Park a lively atmosphere after office hours. A number of residents have written to us saying that they felt safe with the skateboarders there at night. Since the skating ban, they have told us, they haven't felt safe walking through the park after dark; The presence of the skateboarders made their neighborhood feel safer at night.
- Create a skate-free, pedestrian passage: FOLP proposes banning skateboarding at all times along the southernmost side of LOVE Park, and creating a pedestrian passage between the grass plots and the south wall. We intend to install rumble strips in the ground (like on a highway shoulder), a well-established means to prevent skateboarding on that area. Skateboards will not work on this surface. This is surrounded by a grassy area, again not appropriate for skateboarding. The grass and strip will create a safe zone where you can walk without fear of being hit by either a skateboarder or a runaway skateboard! This will create a direct and clear passage for pedestrians who do not wish to share the space of the main park with skateboarders.
- Provide Monitors to Enforce Safety: The Friends of LOVE Park plans to station a monitor at the park to enforce the ban on skateboarding before 3:00 PM, and also to enforce park rules and safety while skateboarding is allowed, after 3:00 PM.
Legal LiabilityThe City early on voiced a concern about legal liability for injury. However, we have shown that the liability is no different than that at any other public space where people practice a sport. The city is not liable for injuries incurred from skateboarding at LOVE Park.
We have then heard the argument that skateboarding is a dangerous sport. This is simply false. Skateboarding has been ranked as far less dangerous than soccer, baseball, or basketball. In a study of safety of major sports, skateboarding ranks barely below volleyball. In fact, the current trend in skateboarding that LOVE Park helped to create internationally -- called street skating -- is a low-speed, low impact form of the sport. It does not entail ramps of flips, but instead high-coordination maneuvers on low benches and ledges.
Why LOVE Park? Why Not Build a New Skate Park?LOVE Park is a world-famous icon, a mecca for an entire generation. Whether they skateboard or not, thousands of young people have considered Philadelphia for college and for life after college because of Philadelphia’s youth-friendly image, created by LOVE Park. Allowing skateboarding in LOVE Park shows them that Philadelphia cares about its youth. For people under 30, nationwide, LOVE Park is one of few things people know about Philadelphia and for that reason, banning skateboarding has had a crippling effect on Philadelphia’s image, and its attraction for new residents.
Just as we cannot move Independence Hall, we cannot move LOVE Park. For this generation, it is what makes Philadelphia famous and appealing. Students with choices of colleges tilt toward Philadelphia because of LOVE Park. Thousands of tourists flock to this city with their children lured by LOVE Park. This park has appeared in movies, magazines, and even video games. We must accept the fact that skateboarding must remain at LOVE Park and find a way to incorporate it into the park’s other uses.
Mixed UseAcross the nation there is a major trend in architecture and urban design called “mixed use.” This means that spaces are utilized for multiple functions to create a lively and diverse urban setting. Urban experts and city officials across the country have identified LOVE Park as one of the nation’s most successful mixed-use spaces. It combines people from many walks of life in a world-famous icon that other cities have spent millions trying to duplicate.
For all of these reasons, it is critical to incorporate skateboarding at LOVE Park if Philadelphia wants to continue to attract new residents and maintain a positive image. The fact remains that in any space with athletic activity, there is some risk of injury. While it would be convenient simply to move the skateboarding to another location, that location will not have the world-famous iconic stature that LOVE Park already has.
The Friends of LOVE Park feels that these measures will greatly improve LOVE Park’s potential as a mixed-use space. We currently have enough funding to pay for all of these measures, regular maintenance and cleaning, as well as the monitor for at least ten years.
A Daily News poll in 2003 showed that 70% of Philadelphians want to return skateboarding to LOVE Park. Therefore, with the support of much of this city, as well as city and business officials in Philadelphia and around the world, we hope to return skateboarding to LOVE Park. This will be an important step to return Philadelphia’s worldwide fame and youth-friendly image, paving the way for further efforts to make Philadelphia great.
Report and Site Change Proposal from the Friends of LOVE Park [Acrobat format]