A Brake in the System | Teen Ink

A Brake in the System

November 18, 2013
By KaylaMei BRONZE, Tempe, Arizona
KaylaMei BRONZE, Tempe, Arizona
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The wheel is one of humankind's greatest inventions. Since the dawn of time we have envisioned some vehicle that will efficiently take us from point a to point b. The evolution of the wheel progressed smoothly from stagecoaches, to bikes, to trains, to modern cars—however, it is my deepest regret to inform you today that we have actually devolved in wheel-based transportation technology. The invention of the longboard, skateboard, pennyboard, anything-board is a tragedy in the history of the wheel.

Bikes have two wheels, cars have four wheels, trains and buses have even more, but they all share a common accessory: brakes. In 1876, English inventors Browett and Harrison patented an early caliper brake for bicycles—and thus the major problem with bikes was solved. Because, as you very well can guess, the greatest problem with a wheel is stopping it once it has begun rolling. With the invention of the brakes came a halt in our Sisyphean struggle of rolling too far or too fast. However, in the 50’s some surfer-dude rolling a piece of driftwood on rollerblade wheels in California had the bright idea of these death traps called skateboards.

In theory, the skateboard is genius: imagine a flat surface you stand on that virtually teleports you from one area to another, and all you have to do is push it every now and then woth a single tap of the toe: moving ground! What this Einstein forgot was that people typically walk together or in the same general direction. For example, the Arizona State University campus sidewalks, where an amalgam of pedestrians, cyclists, and other transportations melt together, provide the perfect storm for longboard tragedies. While the skateboard does move faster than someone with a pair of perfectly functioning legs, it can also land both the rider and bystanders kissing pavement.

“I promise I’m not stupid—it was a pebble.” These words leave a young ASU student’s mouth and I don’t want to hear them. I have just seen him launched high into the cloudless blue sky along with a pair of sunglasses, his draw-string backpack, cell phone, and, of course, his longboard. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for me to see longboard riders fall off, crash, or injure themselves once or twice a day on campus. Some of them are texting, some are talking to friends, and some are just rushing too fast to see where they’re going. Yet boys and girls continue attempting to traverse campus on these poor excuses for transportation. We need a change in this system to prevent any more skinned knees or apologies to get things back on track, so to speak.

The new walk-only zones at ASU prove themselves a poor attempt to fix the growing problem with longboards on campus. The zones are strategically placed in high traffic areas, where accidents do happen. But they also force people on perfectly functional bikes, scooters, or two legs to crowd together in a resistor of traffic by hopping off of their transportation and walking it beside them. The slow down in the walk-only zones only causes more crowding on alternative routes and people are often more aggressive because they’ve had to go around a walk-only zone. Simply put, the enforcement against longboards has ended up handicapping the other modes of transportation that do have brakes. Instead of silly walk-only zones, we should just abolish the longboard altogether. I’m sure students across campus would rejoice in a campus devoid of these rolling menaces.

I’ll admit there are some contingencies in my fail-safe plan. Students would still be able to own a longboard for recreational purposes, so long as they didn’t use it on campus as transportation or abuse them to get to class when they were running late. Monitoring these boards on the campus at large would be the biggest problem. We already station students at the walk-only zones from 8am - 4pm. Changing their oh-so important job title to “Skateboard Patrol” wouldn’t be hard. We could also incentivize through the selling of longboards to ASU, then strip down the boards to create a new sculpture for the Memorial Union or at least use the boards as firewood on a brisk night. I’ll admit, the most radical—yet appealing—measure would be campus-wide longboard genocide.

Wheels are a symbol of progress and invention, not tripping and falling. Let us abolish this scuffmark in the great American history of the wheel and evolve past the longboard. Rise up, pedestrians and cyclists, and reject these fatal devices. For, when all is said and done, what is a wheel you can’t stop from turning but a bad idea?

The author's comments:
I really just wanted to poke fun and enlighten other college students to the excessive longboard accidents that happen around ASU campus.

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