Why is Portland the Most Skateboard Friendly Town in America?

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For aging skateboarders who think of police harassment and municipal oppression as just part of the sport, the sights and sounds of downtown Portland, Oregon may come as a shocker. The city actually has designated skate routes complete with little stick figures on stick skateboards. There are upwards of 20 specially built, designated skate parks throughout town, and even the mayor’s office has paved the way for skaters with constant advocacy on their behalf.

Compared to what you see in the rest of the U.S. and elsewhere, this is like a bizarro world. y have ordinances and policies in their favor—not to mention the thousands of dollars Skaters in Portland not only are not harassed for doing the thing they love to do, but they actuall that the city has put into building skateboard parks and infrastructure.

From the city’s and parents’ perspective, this makes sense. Having designated places for skateboarders to do their thing keeps the kids out of other public areas and gives them a place to skate that is relatively safe and in the public eye. Parents of skaters rarely have to wonder where their kids are, and police don’t have to worry about kids endangering their own and others’ safety in streets and public plazas. It’s a win-win situation.

So, what made Portland this way? Some say that it has to do with the 150 days of rain the city experiences each year. With all those rainy days, kids in the early days of the skateboarding era went looking for a dry place to practice their tricks, and they found many skate-friendly areas under bridges and overpasses. In time, the kids learned how to keep these areas clean and safe while staying respectful to surrounding businesses and homeowners. This project helped earn skateboarders some respect while also teaching them how to handle the community.

As the same kids grew up, this created a generation of young adults who were well positioned to advocate for their up-and-coming skateboarding compatriots. Mix that with the overall progressive and youth-friendly culture in Portland, and you arrive at an atmosphere that is in stark contrast with other cities that are stuck in the past with regard to these issues. And by all accounts, it’s done nothing but good for the city. In fact, the success of Portland’s skateboarding-related measures has led to similar movements in cities like Seattle, Denver, and Philadelphia. If this proliferation is any indication of an overall trend, things are going to get much better for skaters in the coming generation..

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