Are kids skating on thin ice by ignoring safety precautions?

A popular skate-park near the West Bund is being overrun by small children, raising concerns about injuries and driving away 'boaders' who once frequented the area. 
Jiang Xiaowei

Children have taken over the vert ramps in the skating park.

Wang Quanqing has been skateboarding with friends in a park near the junction of Ruining Road and Long Teng Avenue for almost eight years, but this summer has ushered in a new problem for his favorite leisure activity. 

Large numbers of young children have been showing up at the skate park at dusk every day, treating what is a purpose-built recreational area designed for skateboarding as an ordinary playground. 

“They don’t wear any protective gear at all, and that’s dangerous,” said Wang, age 24. 

In a short video posted online by Wang, which later went viral, dozens of kids were seen sitting on plastic boards, sliding down the vert ramp, a type of half-pipe commonly used in extreme sports competitions. On the video, Wang quarrels with one of the parents about the lack of safety.

The video stirred online debate. Many people supported Wang, calling the situation hazardous for both the kids and the skaters. Others said the skate park is public space and everyone has the right to have fun there.

A Shanghai Daily reporter went to the park at 7pm on Saturday. The venue was dominated by young children and their families. Many kids were playing on the skate ramp as if it were a playground slide. Near the ramp in the open area, youngsters were on kick scooters, skateboards and bicycles, and even playing soccer. 

Chen Lili told Shanghai Daily she takes her two grandchildren to the park almost every evening in the summer. Her grandson, Longlong, who is six, was holding a plastic sledding board. He sat on the board and griped the handle, while his feet pushed off the ground to give him extra speed as he slid down the ramp.

Longlong collided with his sister, but the little girl didn’t seem bothered, as she quickly stood up with her brother and prepared for another slide.

“I don’t see why people are making such a big fuss,” said Chen. “The kids enjoy it.” 

Wang Zhong, who was in the park with his grandson, agreed.

“They know how to protect themselves,” he said of the youngsters. “I think the ramp is a perfect design for kids.”

Of the several dozen young children there, none wore a helmet or knee guards. At the entrance of the park, a safety notice advises the public that the venue is a skate-sport area and “protective wear is recommended because skateboarding and roller skating can be dangerous.” It also said: “No chasing or romping around in the park.” 

The writing on the board is blurred and difficult to read unless one stands very close.

Cao Zhenyao, who was in the park with his son, said he had read the signboard.

“But people on skateboards aren’t wearing helmets either,” he said. “Why blame us alone?”

Next to Cao, 11-year-old Liu Jiawen sat on a skateboard.

“I can navigate the board quite well,” said Liu. “You don’t have to worry about me. I’ve never tripped.” 

The skate park, called Shanghai Bright Longhua Port Street Plaza, was built in 2010. It was one of the first such parks with vert ramps and obstacles. 

Since the park has been overrun with small children, older and more serious skateboarders have moved to the concrete plaza in front of Shanghai Long Museum, about 100 meters away. 

A group of skateboarders sitting on the steps told Shanghai Daily they haven’t been to the skate park for months.

“We would have to pay the medical fees for ourselves or for the young children if there were an accident involving them,” said a skateboarder calling herself Guaiguai. 

Her peers said they would prefer to skate at the plaza rather than deal with parents at the park. 

But the plaza has its own drawbacks. There are two basketball courts adjacent to the plaza, and the skateboarders said they fear they may accidentally hurt the players or get hit by a ball.

Then, too, the plaza is close to the promenade along the Huangpu River, raising concerns that skateboarders may bump into joggers or people taking an after-dinner stroll.

West Bund Group, manager of the skate park, said its hands are tied in this matter. A security guard at the park told Shanghai Daily that guards have no authority to prevent young children from entering the park.

“The safety noticeboard is nothing more but a friendly reminder,” said the guard. “We can’t punish them for not wearing protective gear.”

An officer of West Bund who identified himself only as Bao said the park is a public space and the company can’t make it exclusive for either young children or skateboarders.

According to regulations of the General Administration of Sport of China, promulgated in 2013, only swimming, skiing, diving and rock climbing are considered “high risk” sports, with venues subject to safety requirements. There are no such standards for skate parks.

West Bund said it plans to improve services at the park to provide a better experience for both youngsters and skateboarders but declined to give details.

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