Skateboarding in Hong Kong - Helmets and the LCSD
Yesterday Warren Stuart and I were on RTHK Radio 3 discussing Skateboard Culture in Hong Kong and the new rules at 4 public skateparks in the territory that make wearing helmets mandatory. You can listen to the interview here.
There has been a number of issues with these rules. In many cases they have been ignored or rejected by users who are circumventing the new policy in a variety of ways. There has also been a noted decline in the number of users in some skateparks in the territory. In one case the Lai Chi Kok skatepark that has been open for 13 years without the enforcement of any helmet rule has basically become empty.
The introduction of the rule raises a considerable number of issues.
- A large amount of public money has been spent on construction of these skateparks. They have been built for the community and are free to use. At the same time they provide an alternative to the street which can be a dangerous and problematic place for skateboarders to use. The street is also an uncontrolled environment for younger teenagers. With the introduction of unpopular rules skateboarders are eschewing the skateparks for the streets
- Safety issues. In many ways helmets are regarded as a much safer option for skateboarders, BMX, and rollerbladers. However, part of skateboard culture rejects rules such as these. Skateboarders for example may not wear a helmet when they are skating ledges and small transitions but will choose to wear a helmet when skate larger vert obstacles. The imposition of rules my non-skaters has always been met with suspicion by skateboarders. A key part of skate culture is that skateboarders try and manage and control it.
- Park usage. There are 2 new skateparks that have big bowls that take up roughly a quarter of the total park size. However these have never been open to the public. Even with the introduction of the new helmet rule the large bowls remain closed unless an organisation books them for an event. Then only members of that organisation can officially use the booked bowl. One has to question how skateboarders in Hong Kong can ever acquire the skills to ride these bowls in such situations.
- The previous policy of the parks that required users to sign in and provide a waver had no issues. This method also provided the LCSD with data on how many users accessed the park, their ages, and genders. In sum an excellent tool to see who the parks are servicing. Since the introduction of the helmet rule no further data on numbers of users is being collected and they therefore have no firm numbers about the effect of the new policy.
Many are in favour of a reversion to the previous arrangement. In this way helmet use was optional, but recommended and users could sign themselves in. It remains to be seen how things will develop from this point on.