I am six feet and four inches tall, with a non-existant center of gravity. This renders me incapable of doing anything related to skateboarding other than admire the accomplishments of others. In the above video, we see Decio Lourenco, 24, of Cape Town, South Africa, reaching speeds in excess of 60 kilometers per hour, travelling down Kloof Nek Road on his longboard.
How do we know that he reaches such high speeds? Because at around the 1:06 mark of the video, Lourenco sets off a camera designed to collect evidence for inflicting fines on speeding motorists and discourage those who might exceed the limits in place. A second after the device detects his velocity, we see him raise his arms in jubilation. However, the thrill of excessive velocity was short-lived, as the city’s safety and security department announced their plan to prosecute the graphic design student for reckless and negligent road behaviour.
According to city spokesperson Jean-Pierre Smith, the longboarder put motorists at risk with his antics.
All that was needed was for one of those motorists to panic and swerve into the oncoming traffic and you have a large number of deaths, as we have already had on that road.
Herein lies our conundrum. Doesn’t Smith’s description of what could happen actually apply to any sort of potential traffic collision, whether it involves a skateboarder or not?
Don’t get me wrong. If I was driving a motorized vehicle in the oncoming lane, and I saw a skateboarder coming toward me at such a high speed, my digestive system would suddenly evacuate itself with the force of extreme food poisoning. However, fear alone shouldn’t be enough for the conviction of a crime.
Lourenco is obviously a skilled rider, exhibiting his abilities in the video by slowing himself on multiple occasions. In addition, he claims to have taken precautions with protective equipment and choosing a time for his ride at which traffic would be minimal. None of this seems reckless or negligent.
Perhaps what the authorities object to the most is that a skateboard was used to reach such a high velocity. However, there is no law against using this mode of transportation on this specific road. Prosecuting Lourenco based on his vehicle of choice rather than his actual actions or intent suggests to me that the city would be better off pursuing a skateboard ban from the road rather than a conviction of the young man.
While I can’t speak to its reputation in South Africa specifically, I wonder if the stereotypical image of a skateboarder as a rebellious and drug-addled youth plays any part in the city’s intent to punish Lourenco. Despite elements of the skateboarding culture attempting to distance itself from it, these negative notions still exist.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of all is that the controversy primarily serves to take away from what is an incredible-looking ride, with or without any risk involved to others.