Courtesy Thomas Flinchbaugh

Skateboarding will soon be a crime on three steeply snaking Santa Barbara County roads deemed “way too dangerous” by the California Highway Patrol, which has been fielding an escalating number of complaints about downhill speed runs. On 7/7, the County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 (with Supervisor Steve Lavagnino saying nay) to ban skateboarding on North San Marcos Road (often referred to as Old San Marcos), Painted Cave Road between Highway 154 and East Camino Cielo, and Gibraltar Road from Santa Barbara city limits to East Camino Cielo.

About a dozen skateboarders — “downhillers,” more specifically — spoke not only against the ban but to offer alternatives, such as making those roads safer for everybody by adding yellow centerlines and posting “Share The Road” or “Stay In Your Lane” signs along narrow stretches and blind corners. The skateboarders’ professional tone at the public podium didn’t fall on deaf ears — Supervisor Salud Carbajal, for one, called their cohesive advocacy “awesome” — but when it came down to brass tacks, the county opted to protect itself from potential liability if and when a downhiller takes a turn for the worse. “We see these [type of] litigations all the time — week in and week out,” said Supervisor Peter Adam.

While the CHP officially notified the board of an uptick in skateboarding last fall, the issue took prominence early last month when local downhiller Tara Tate strayed from her freshly paved lane on Gibraltar Road and hit an oncoming car head on, suffering serious injuries. Tate has since made a full recovery, and on Tuesday opponents of the law said it’s unfair for the CHP to spotlight a bad crash or two when the vast majority of Santa Barbara downhillers run a clean safety record. The law goes into effect later this summer, and those three roads will still be available for organized, permit-only downhill events.


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