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Inline Skating Safety and Etiquette
How to anticipate and avoid skating hazards and how to do your part
to give skating a good name.
The inline skating tips and safety guidelines on this page will make your
skating experiences safe and fun. This is the third article
in a four-part series called "Getting Started on Inline Sktes".
Your chance of being injured on inline skates will be greatly reduced
if you are aware of potential hazards and you know how to avoid them.
Whenever you skate, pay attention to your surroundings and keep your
eyes and ears open. Don't let yourself be surprised by changes in the
terrain or the unexpected actions of other people.
I've never been seriously injured in a skating fall, but my three most unnerving falls were caused by surprise encounters with water on the road, sand on a bikepath, and a city sidewalk that abruptly disappeared. On those occasions, I didn't notice the danger because I allowed myself to become distracted. HOWEVER.....I still managed to escape injury because of......
Wear Body Protection
Always wear your helmet, wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads. My wrist guards are literally COVERED with scrapes and scratches and dents. I've had relatively few falls, but anyone who skates as much as I do is going to hit the ground 2 or 3 times a year. My body protection has saved me during more than one close encounter with the asphalt!
I skate about 4,000 miles a year, so I have a lot of skating experience and a lot of safety tips to share. Unfortunately I learned most of them the hard way. Here are some of the best:
Road Surfaces Issues
Try to skate only on smooth pavement with no surface debris.
Be very alert for changes in the condition of the road in front of you. Don't let potholes, storm debris, rough pavement, curbs or patches of grass catch you by surprise.
Don't skate through water, oil, mud or sand. Your wheels will have very little traction, and your feet can slide right out from under you.
Tiny pebbles look harmless, but they can get stuck in your skate wheels and cause them to stop rolling. This one is a REAL bummer...
Cracks in the pavement can be a serious danger, in a way that always surprises new skaters. It's not the cracks CROSSING your path that you need to worry about. Inline skates handle those cracks very well -- much better than traditional quad skates.
The dangerous cracks are the ones that run parallel to your skating path. If the wheels of one of your inline skates get lodged into one of those cracks, you can be thrown off balance without any warning. This typically happens when you're skating on a sidewalk with a crack down the center.
Public Skating Trails
Always use caution when skating in public areas with bicycles, cars, pedestrians, and other skaters.
Learn basic skating skills before you attempt to skate in a public place. Learn how to turn, control your speed, fall safely, and most important, to stop. One of the most dangerous things on a crowded bike path is a skater who never learned how to stop!
Always be conscious of others around you. Avoid sudden stops and last minute turns. You don't want to surprise anyone.
When you're skating in an area with a lot of bicycle, skate or auto traffic, glance back over your shoulder every 10 or 20 seconds (remember - always be aware of your surroundings).
Around Bicycles: Be very predictable. Don't make any unexpected movements. Don't swing your arms and legs wildly back and forth as you skate -- many cyclists have been knocked off their bikes by careless skaters.
Around Pedestrians: Always yield to pedestrians. Be prepared for them to run in front of you or stroll obliviously across your path.
Around Children: Be prepared for ANYTHING. They will frequently run across your path when you least expect it. Children on skates or on foot usually cause me to slow down to a very cautious crawl.
Around Dogs: Be cautious when you approach a dog on a leash. If the dog suddenly runs run across your path, you can find yourself skating toward a leash stretched out across the path in front of you.
Always be acutely aware that it is DANGEROUS to skate in the street.
Ask your local law enforcement agency if skaters are allowed to skate in the streets, on the sidewalks, and on the bike paths in your city.
Skate in the bicycle lane on city streets (if skaters are allowed on bike paths in your city)
If you must skate in the street, clip two flashing bicycle lights to your helmet or your waist, one in front and one in back. I use two heavy-duty 3" by 2" flashing bicycle lights - a green one on the bow and a red one on the stern!
Obey all traffic regulations.
Whenever you approach a driveway, imagine a car speeding out, just as you're skating by.
Whenever you approach a car parked on the side of the road, imagine someone flinging the door open just as you're skating by.
Before you cross an intersection, look all around you for any car that could POSSIBLY turn in front of you. If cars drive on the right side of the road in your country, you should be especially concerned about cars making RIGHT turns in front of you. If your cars drive on the left side of the road, watch for cars making a LEFT turn in front of you. Those kind of turns cause a lot of skating accidents because it's difficult for drivers to see you in time to stop.
Wear good-quality, well-fitting skates that provide adequate ankle support.
Check your skates regularly to make sure they're in good condition.
Rotate your wheels when they wear unevenly.
Replace worn out wheels and bearings.
Replace your brake BEFORE it wears out.
Make sure your wheels are securely tightened
Make sure your wheels are never blocked by debris or grass.
Always have an all-purpose skate tool with you when you skate.
Other Safety Tips
Never skate at night. When it's dark, you can't see hazards in the road and you can't be seen by others. If you ever DO have to skate in the dark, clip two flashing bicycle lights to your helmet or your waist (one in front and one in back).
Wear protective gear every time you skate. Long-sleeved shirts and long trousers will give you additional protection from scrapes and cuts.
Always skate under control and within your abilities. Avoid hills until you are ready for them. Remember that you will gain speed quickly on even a very small hill.
Many people recommend against skating with headphones, because they block out sounds that can alert you to approaching danger. If you must skate with headphones, keep the volume low, and use headphones that don't block out surrounding noise.
When you can't avoid falling, try to fall in sand or grass, and fall forward onto your wrist guards and knee pads.
Skating Etiquette and Courtesy
The best thing you can do to prevent skating bans in your area, is to demonstrate that skaters are an asset to your community rather than a nuisance and a hazard.
Give skating a good name !!!
Be courteous, friendly, and helpful to those around you.
Be tolerant of the shortcomings of others.
Do your most weird and dangerous tricks out of eye-sight and out of camera-sight. This tip is from An Open Letter to Skaters by Dave Cooper, Government Relations Chair for the International Inline Skating Association.
Don't swing legs and arms wildly to the left and right.
Always skate single file, even when you skate with friends.
Skate on the FAR right side of sidewalks, bike paths and trails.
Pass pedestrians, cyclists and other skaters on the left (skate on the right, pass on the left)
Don't pass without warning and pass only when it's safe, and you know there's enough room.
Warn others before passing. Say "Passing on your left". Say it loudly, but don't bark it out angrily. If you say it with a smile, the smile will be reflected in your voice. (I usually smile and wave to the person I'm passing.)
All this passing etiquette might seem like overkill, but for some reason, people often become annoyed when someone skates up behind them shrieking
"ON YOUR LEEEEEEEEFT!!!!"
To avoid being the victim of someone's bike-path road rage, AND to prevent skating bans in your area, always be a courteous, friendly, helpful, polite, and civic-minded skater.
More About Skating Safety
Articles, statistics, and discussions about skating safety plus
tips on how to skate safely to avoid injuring yourself and others.
This is the first article in a four-part series for
beginning inline skaters called "How to Get Started on Inline Skates":
Go to Part 4:
Practice Tips for Beginners
More of This Article
Overcoming Fear of Skating
Buying Your First Skates
Part 3: Skating Safety and Etiquette
Practice Tips for beginners
Skating for Beginners
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