Despite the fact it might sometimes seem to be with all the hateful rhetoric aimed at it by anti-skaters, skateboarding is not illegal.
Whether you’re doing it at the skatepark or on the sidewalk, throwing up tricks or just trying to get to work, skateboarding is a form of recreation and transportation, not a crime.
Skateboarding is, however, subject to laws, which is a different animal entirely.
Laws That Might Apply To Skateboarding
When it comes to local laws, there are several sections of a city or town’s municipal code that might affect skaters.
These laws mostly determine where and when it’s legal to skateboard and are designed to keep skaters, pedestrians, and drivers safe.
They also aim to prevent nuisance to the community.
Laws that affect the legality of skateboarding in a municipality typically fall under three main categories:
- Pedestrian laws
- Zoning laws
- Noise laws
In most municipalities, skateboarders are treated as pedestrians.
As such, they are subject to the same laws as pedestrians.
The main pedestrian laws which affect skateboarders are laws against being in the street.
In municipalities where pedestrians are not allowed to be in the street, skateboarders may not be allowed in the street. (Though, this isn’t always the case. Pedestrian and skateboard laws often diverge in this area.)
But, in places where there are no laws that specifically mention skateboards, as a skater you can assume you are subject to the same laws as pedestrians.
Zoning laws in a city or town determine where certain things are allowed to be – residential properties, businesses, factories, etc.
They also often determine where skaters are allowed to be.
You’ve probably seen them before, in public squares or on shopping streets, the “No Skateboarding” signs. (On those same signs, bicycles, roller skates, scooters, and other recreational devices with wheels are also typically forbidden.)
But not all forbidden skating zones are so well-marked.
Sometimes skating is forbidden entirely in certain areas of cities or towns (most often in commercially-zoned areas.
Though, skating may also be forbidden around hospitals or schools).
These areas may or may not be marked, but it’s your responsibility to know the zoned areas in a municipality where you are not permitted to skate.
The last section of many cities/towns’ municipal codes to which skateboarders are always subject are noise ordinances.
Skaters are, of course, subject to noise laws just like every other citizen.
But, for skaters, this typically means being off your board by the time quiet hours go into effect. (‘Cause, let’s face it, hard wheels on concrete make quite the racket.)
Some noise laws also specifically mention skateboarding.
These laws may decrease the hours during which skateboarding is permitted or limit where you are allowed to skate (such as near schools or hospitals) to minimize noise disturbance. (These skater-specific laws may also appear under Zoning laws).
Like other places where skateboarding is forbidden, no-skate zones around hospitals and schools may or may not be clearly marked , but it is your responsibility to know the skate laws in your area.
Why is skateboarding illegal at certain times in certain places?
While it might seem nitpicky to prohibit skateboarding in certain areas of town or at certain times a day (especially when bikes and inline skates are allowed), laws focused on skateboarding are almost always designed to increase public safety and eliminate nuisance.
Banning skateboards in public squares and on busy streets reduces risk to pedestrians. (Typically, when skateboards are banned in these areas, bikes and skates are too.)
Banning skateboards on streets reduces risk to both skaters and drivers.
And banning skateboards around hospitals/schools and at certain times of day eliminates the noise from skateboards, which can be disruptive to many.
Other Skate Laws That Might Be On The Books
While the above sections of city codes typically cover whether or not skateboarding is illegal in certain places or at certain times, there are other potential laws which may determine whether you are skating legally or not.
In many municipalities, skaters are required to wear helmets (and sometimes other safety equipment), especially on roads.
In others, youth skaters may be subject to regulations adult skaters are not.
Youth skateboarders may be required to wear protective gear, for instance, that adults aren’t required to wear, or may not be allowed to skate in areas where adults are permitted to skate (such as in the street).
If there is not a specific section of the city code designated to skateboards, scooters, and like devices, these laws will typically be found under pedestrian laws.
Check Your Local Skateboard Laws
The good news for skaters is that most municipalities with skateboard laws on the books make them clear, so it’s easy to know which laws apply to you.
To keep legal, simply check your city codes so you know where and when you’re allowed to skate.
That way, if you get into trouble or get hassled, you’ll at least know the law is on your side.
Want to know more about skateboarding and the law? See Where Is Skateboarding Illegal?