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In the News Index

Source: The Temple News
Date: February 19, 2004
Byline: Brandon Lausch


Skaters still can't get much LOVE

Just when you thought it was fading into oblivion during the dismal winter months, the LOVE Park controversy is back and better than ever.

In this chapter, Philadelphia Magazine columnist Noel Weyrich, in an article entitled "X-Treme Annoyance", rebukes the efforts of both The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News to champion a compromise between City Council and pro-skating groups.

These groups, such as the Skateboard Advocacy Network (SAN), aim at renovating and returning LOVE Park to those who made it a cultural landmark, the skaters.

Sprinkled among Weyrich's broad arguments about "street rats" that "wreak destruction on public property," are personal attacks on the editorial boards of both papers. Weyrich proposes a North Broad Street Wiffle Ball League that will play in front of the Inquirer/Daily News building, so members of the newspaper staffs can prove that they are "more than just middle-aged suburban hipsters."

But this may be a veiled attempt by Mr. Weyrich to take the spotlight off of his particular cause and project it onto another minority group who are continually disenfranchised.

Weyrich is in fact a prominent national advocate for bicyclists, and served not only as the Director of State and Local Advocacy for the League of American Bicyclists, but as chair of the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley as well. While in office he suggested the city spend $3.7 million for a network of more than 300 miles of bike lanes.

He has been quoted in The New York Times in articles on bicycling and has written for various bicycle media outlets, including advertisements for the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition listserv (MassBike).

In a posting Weyrich made on MassBike, he charged the AAA with "motor-supremacist views" and suggested five comebacks for bicycle advocates who want to disprove the view that bicyclists deserve no special treatment on the road. He argues against this point to start off his fifth suggestion by writing that "The public right-of-way is not the private preserve of any one group."

Of course Weyrich demands that motorists share the road when he is championing the cause of his fellow bicyclists. But when another interest group demands that pedestrians share a public park, he debases their argument by saying "Let skateboarders into any park, and it quickly becomes their private preserve." He then compares skateboarders to "drunks on trains" and "beggars and bums."

His solution for usage of public property is two-fold. For bicyclists, it is million dollar allotments and "Share the Road" signs. For skateboarders, resolution is social ostracism and degrading characterizations.

Both are equally dangerous and practiced in public areas, yet they garner hypocritical results. This highlights Weyrich's tunnel vision to only see the plight of a cause he is personally involved in.

Considering the fact that Mr. Weyrich enjoys hypothetical situations so much, I have one of my own.

Suppose the city decided that the "street rat" bikers were "wreaking destruction on public property" by weaving in and out of cars, making hairpin turns and endangering drivers and themselves. Suppose the mayor then regressed to outlawing biking in public areas due to the danger and destruction it caused after reaping economic benefits from exploiting the industry. (As the city did when it generated roughly $80 million from the X-Games held in Philadelphia two years in a row.)

Would Weyrich use Philadelphia Magazine as a medium to express his gratitude toward the city for banning these biking derelicts? Would he blast two of the largest newspapers in the nation for sticking up for an injustice that targets youth who are engaging in a legitimate pastime?

No, he wouldn't. But he would have an idea of how skateboarders feel.

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