Guide to building a skatepark

Steps? No.

A skatepark is specifically designed for the use of people on a bike, or a skateboard, or inline skates. These things all have one thing in common: they have wheels. Wheels work best on smooth surfaces. Whether that’s flat ground, or a transitioned curve ramp, or a flat bank type ramp – wheels roll well on these things because they are smooth surfaces.

Steps are designed to allow people to walk either down to lower levels of ground or up to higher levels of ground. They are best used where people will be walking.

I know this sounds like I’m pointing out the obvious, and my tone may sound a bit patronising, but bear with me.

People don’t use skateparks for walking; they use them for rolling about, often at high speeds, on wheels. Now here’s the part you need to pay attention to:

Wheels cannot roll up steps.

Neither do they roll down steps very well, if at all. Please bear these two facts in mind.

I think I can understand why some skatepark designers decided to put steps in skateparks. Skateboarders and BMX riders often jump down steps in the street. Someone noticed this and thought it would be a good idea to replicate that in a designated skating/riding area. It obviously made sense to a few people, but the reality is that steps give barely any benefit to the users of a skatepark.

Of course, people can jump up and down steps, but they are severely limiting object. They defy one of the most important considerations when of building a skatepark – to create something that allows the user to flow smoothly from one obstacle to another, retaining or even increasing their momentum as they go along. When someone jumps from the top of a set of steps, they lose a lot of momentum. In addition to this, landing on flat ground from the height of a set of steps is quite damaging to bikes, skateboards, and the rider’s joints. Jumping up steps requires a huge amount of strength and energy, and also saps a lot of the rider’s momentum.

What is the solution to this? Simply use a flat bank or a quarterpipe instead. People can use these two items in the same way as they would use a set of steps – i.e. they could jump from the top all the way to the bottom – if they really wanted to. The difference is that people can smoothly roll up and down quarterpipes and flat banks at speed, without causing any damage to themselves or their equipment. Quarterpipes and flat banks don’t disrupt the flow of the skatepark, neither do they stop people from riding in a particular direction; steps often provide nothing but an annoying obstruction to the users of the park.

Why waste money on something that’s barely usable, causes damage when used in the intended way, and can be replaced with something far more useful?

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