Safety

Throughout this guide, "street skating" is used in the literal sense; i.e., getting about town on one's skates.

Despite their variable condition, the streets of Manhattan almost seem designed for skating. At the height of inline skating's popularity, there seemed to be a lot of people in this town using their Rollerblades for basic transportation. You might raise a sweat and suffer bus exhaust, but it saves you the $2.50 for a subway or bus token.

Just remember that while Manhattan drivers are surprisingly apt to honor amber street lights — probably in fear of killing jaywalking pedestrians — they're downright terrible at signalling lane changes or even turns. In other boroughs, drivers will be less likely to slow for amber lights, or even red lights.

But while we have enormous respect for the ability of cab drivers to avoid hitting cyclists, skaters and other cars, the movement of taxis is (perhaps as a consequence) notoriously unpredictable. And then there are the take-out food delivery guys, who all too often ride their lightless and apparently brakeless bicycles the wrong way down one-way streets.

The moral of the story is... well actually, there are several of them:

  • Wearing a helmet and other skate armor is more than just a good idea. (Also, state law requires skaters under age 14 to wear helmets.)
  • Pay attention to what you're doing and what others around you are doing. Don't do anything to reduce your ability to observe your surroundings. Skating with an iPod plugged into your ears could cause you to lose "street awareness".
  • New York state law gives you the right to skate on the streets, but you also have responsibilities, too. Skate with traffic rather than against it, honor traffic signals, etc. Basically, behave like cyclists are supposed to.
  • Help others help you. Hand signals, just like bicyclists use, alert others to your intentions and give them time to react appropriately. You'd be amazed at how much less you'll get honked at if you do simple things like signal a lane change.
  • Know the territory. Yes, Times Square is a tough place to skate, but even a quiet residential street has its dangers. Keep in mind what they are and be prepared.
  • Wear reflective clothing when skating after dark. It's not just a good idea, it's the law.

Please take note that at least ten skaters are known to have died skating in the city since this skate guide first was posted on the web. Five were victims of falls in Central Park, all of whom died of head injuries. Those outside the park were either struck by or run over by vehicles. Reports suggest that several of these skaters would have survived if they had been wearing helmets, and at least three were killed because they were doing something foolish in the wrong place. Two of the helmetless skaters who slipped and fell in Central Park did so within short distances of emergency service personnel, but the nature of the head injuries was such that the quick medical response did not matter.