By Sebastian Moronta, Staff Writer
As of late, I’ve noticed a significant jump in the number of students on campus who use things like scooters, skateboards, and longboards to get around. Every day it seems more and more people are riding around the parking lots, on Ring Road, on the paths around residential buildings and to and from classes, myself included.
Both on campus and beyond, longboards have been gaining popularity. Lots of people enjoy longboarding as a hobby, while folks like me mainly use them to get to and from places faster. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive; most people who own one do a healthy mix. I use mine nearly every day going to and from classes, and living in the Dells means I’ve covered a lot of ground this semester so far.
This campus is especially board-friendly, particularly the outer ring and parking lots, with lots of smooth pavement and very little major cracks or rough terrain. As one gets closer inward, the smooth pavement turns to cobblestone and the paths become narrower, which makes things more dangerous for both the riders and the pedestrians around them.
As far as I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of code of ethics or guidelines for folks using boards or scooters on campus, and while they aren’t motorized, boards allow people to move a lot faster and I think it’s best to think about these things before someone gets hurt, and the university gets involved.
Last year, hoverboards, the motorized scooters that became very popular in the fall, presented a safety issue and UMass Dartmouth banned them campus-wide, for good reason. Granted, longboards and scooters have a much lower rate of spontaneous combustion, but if riders and pedestrians can adopt an etiquette when in each other’s presence, things will go smoothly from here on out.
Now, for the riders on campus, let’s not blow this. All it takes is one trampling or broken wrist for the banhammer to start swinging. Be careful around people. If you’re going down a path and there are people facing away from you, don’t count on them hearing your wheels. Give a calm but confident “heads up” or “on your left” while you’re still a good distance away. When riding around the roads and parking lots, try to be consistent, and watch out for cars pulling out of spaces or turning into lanes. Drivers often get nervous when someone is riding around, especially the faster and closer they are. If you’re going to cross a street or move in front of a car at any point, throw up a hand and indicate what direction you’re turning in so they don’t suddenly speed up to pass you.
Now this is certainly up for debate, but I personally think riding should be fairly limited to the paths and roads outside the main quad, with obvious exceptions. The cobblestone paths are small, and have more indentations that could jolt you in the wrong direction if you aren’t careful.
Those paths have the heaviest foot traffic during the day. If the coast is clear, go for it, but I’d think twice about riding the paths from SENG to LARTS during those tumultuous minutes between a class period’s end and beginning.
As for everyone else, it’s certainly more our responsibility to be careful around you, but there’s plenty you can do to protect yourselves.
Namely the obvious: If someone is approaching on a board or scooter, regardless of how fast they’re going, pick one side of the path and commit to it. The confused stumbling and stuttering when trying to figure out where you think we want you to go doesn’t help clear things up. Pick a side and stick to it, we’ll move around you. Just don’t make any sudden movements. The vast majority of us will bail off to the side or swerve quickly if we think there’s even a chance that we may hit you, and occasionally that means hitting the dirt, so we’d like to avoid that if possible.
If everybody just employs some common sense, we can all keep waiting until four minutes before class to leave and still get there on time.