The chances of you injuring yourself while longboarding can be high, but the goal is to have fun, challange yourself, learn new things, make friends and most importantly stay alive and skate another day. The chances of a fatal injury are really very low and will be next to nothing if you take a little care. The purpose of this manifesto is to make the chance of injury on a longboard as close to non-existent as possible. Longboarding is not about accepting nihilism or being extreme, remember it's about having fun. To have fun, you need to take care, its just that simple. Live to skate another day and always rememebr concrete > brains.
Big Metal Boxes
If you skate on the road, there will be motor vehicles. We must coexist peacefully with motor vehicles. It is of utmost importance that we are aware of, and understand the behaviour of these vehicles as best we can. If we are unable to recognize the flow of traffic, we will not be able to avoid it, and in the worst case scenario, might have a collision. Basically, to avoid hitting a big metal box we need to think like one.
A few things to ask yourself:
Where might cars be slowing down to turn off onto another road?
Where might cars be merging onto the road you are on?
Are you on a one way road? If so, is it one way up or down the hill? (I know it's obvious, but common sense is not so common!)
What is the speed limit? (Lets you know fast cars should be going)
Some things to remember:
It's better to run into the back of a car than be hit in the back by a car.
Its dark at night. That makes little old you with no lights hard to see.
Commuting is just as dangerous as any other kind of riding. If you have taken runs in a pack with sketchy/unpredictable people, just imagine that pack as being comprised of hundreds of people going in different directions, most of whom are in cars. That’s what riding in traffic is. There are car doors opening, cabs pulling u-turns, cars parked in the bike lane, street car and train tracks and potholes other such pavement abnormalities and its hard to keep track of them all. So here are a few tips which may help you stay intact:
Stay far enough away from the curb as to avoid any sunken manholes and unexpected debris.
Obey traffic signals, you are considered a vehicle once on the road. Don't be stupid, they apply to you too.
Do not wear headphones, hearing tells you what's happening in your environment, usually before seeing and this is very important.
Use the bike lane, it's there for a reason.
Corners and Hairpins: Spotters and the Right Side
A good corner or hairpin is a delicacy to those with a refined skate palate. Unfortunately they are also some of the most dangerous places to skate, for several reasons. First off, they are often blind corners. This means that neither you or the car know what is coming. Because our traffic system involves staying to the right, if the corner is a left, and you drift you will go off the road. But if the corner is a right, and you drift, you will find yourself in the oncoming lane (the left lane). Because of this, when skating a right hand corner, always make sure that you are maintaining a speed which you can control, stay in your lane and not drift into oncoming traffic.
One thing that you should ALWAYS have when skating blind corners is a spotter. The value of spotters is beyond that of every carbon board combined. If I was given the choice between spotters and precision trucks for life, I would choose spotters. I understand that it is frustrating when you skate less because you are spotting, but take the opportunity to take pictures or get some water and snacks. With a spotter you can charge into a corner with no hesitation. Just take turns.
Helmets: Wear one
This is not one of those debateable topics. You may have the power to choose whether or not to wear a helmet, but there is no good argument for going bucket-less. It is impossible to get around the fact that cars and pavement are hard, and you are squishy. Wear a helmet. Good signs that a helmet will be safe (because some are not), are a CPSC for cycling or ASTM F1492 for skateboarding. Concrete > Brains!
Etiquette: The Road Is A Public Dinner Table, Be Polite.
There are ways in which to communicate when riding in packs that make it much safer and more enjoyable. No one is happy when there is a rider-rider crash that could have been avoided with a little bit a communication. Just as cars do, signal before you are going to slow down/slide. Take the time to use hand signals that you and your friends easily recognize. To be safe is to be considerate. Take into consideration the position of traffic and other riders around you. If you are going to moving from one side of the road to another, make sure that you will not force another rider into the other lane or a ditch. When drafting another rider, if you are going to give them a nudge, do it gently and straight ahead.
More on this to come, but for now, skating hard means skating safe.