Commuting by Skateboard at UC Davis

Lots of people travel to class and work at UC Davis by bicycle, some walk and some drive their cars. But there is another, growing class of commuters: skateboarders. Kevin Fang and Susan Handy at the UC Davis Institute for Transportation Studies have conducted the a survey of skateboard commuters, based on interviews at UC Davis, and they reported the findings in the journal Transportation recently.

Worker on skateboard

Skateboards offer the speed of bicycles with the access of walking. A new UC Davis survey shows a significant use of skateboards to commute to work or class. (UC Davis photo)

“Skateboard travel is relatively unexplored in transportation research,” the authors drily note.

A 2012 survey by the California Department of Transportation found that 0.14 percent of trips in California were taken by “non-motorized” vehicles other than bicycles and wheelchairs, a category that includes skateboards as well as rollerskates and push scooters. That may not sound a lot, but as Californians travel over 300 billion miles a year, it still adds up to some 48 million miles of travel, Fang and Handy calculate. According to the UC Davis Campus Travel Survey, about 1100 students regularly travel to and around campus by skateboard.

For the study, the researchers interviewed some 30 skateboard users. Overall, people chose to use skateboards because they found them fun, fast and convenient, they found. Riders found skateboards to be uniquely convenient – pedestrian access, with nearly the same speed as a bicycle – as well as being fun to use.

Bicycle Speed, Pedestrian Access

“In terms of convenience, study participants liked that skateboarding blends positive attributes of walking and bicycling. Participants liked they could travel much faster than walking, but at greater flexibility and lower monetary cost than bicycling,” the authors wrote.

In another recent study, Fang and Handy found that skateboarders have a similar rate of deaths and injuries from collisions to bicyclists, considerably higher than the risk to motor vehicle occupants.

The same factors that make Davis attractive to cyclists – warm, dry climate, flat terrain, relatively compact layout and a good infrastructure of dedicated cycle paths and lanes – likely also make the city and campus attractive to skateboarders.

Another important factor is that UC Davis does not prohibit skateboards. In many locations in towns and cities, skateboarding – seen at best as a recreational activity rather than a mode of transport — is restricted or banned altogether, the authors note.

“The skateboarders studied here show that skateboarding can be a competitive mode under the right conditions and meet some travelers’ needs and preferences better than traditional modes can,” the Fang and Handy conclude.

More information

Read the study

Skate or die? The Safety Performance of Skateboard Travel

UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies

UC Davis Transportation Services

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