The glaring inaccuracies, distortions, and illogical conclusions that Dave McKenna conveyed in his recent article on Washington Area Rollerskaters (“WAR on Wheels,” 7/3) require a reply. Throughout the article, Mr. McKenna misquoted WAR members, including myself, and tried to create an aura of confrontation that generally does not exist about the in-line skating club.
To begin with, WAR’s club policy is to obey all traffic signals. Skate leaders constantly urge skaters to stay to the right and allow room for traffic to pass. WAR also tries to avoid taking skates to roads on which there isn’t room for both cars and skaters. In his recounting of a hostile encounter with a motorist, Mr. McKenna failed to mention that a person in a motorist’s car provoked the incident by opening his car door in slow-moving traffic in Georgetown and trying to hit a 100-pound female with the door as she skated by. Mr. McKenna, however, was told of this part of the story during his interview with WAR skaters.
Any alleged hostility between WAR and the Metropolitan Police Department is a figment of Mr. McKenna’s imagination. MPD had nothing to do with the 1995 ban on in-line skating at Freedom Plaza; the ban was the result of a D.C. Council ordinance. MPD regards in-line skates as toys because they are classified as such by a D.C. ordinance that dates back several decades, as I told Mr. McKenna during his interview. The recent incident involving an officer who stopped WAR members from skating on Georgia Avenue was an isolated occurrenceit had not happened before and has not happened since. Moreover, WAR members work with the Park Police through the National Skate Patrol, which attends to skaters’ needs in Rock Creek Park and generally promotes safe skating.
As for any lack of sympathy for those who become injured while skating, WAR does not want anyone to get hurt while skating. WAR advocates wearing protective gear, which prevents most skating injuries. Nearly all WAR skaters wear at least wrist guards. Indeed, street skating without wrist guards is about as sensible as playing hockey goalie without a cup. In addition, WAR recommends that all skaters refrain from doing anything that is beyond the scope of their abilities. Those that fail to follow these common sense guidelines (as did the skater who was injured when attempting to go down the steps at the Lincoln Memorial without wrist guards and without prior experience on steps) do so at their own risk.
The notion that beginners or barely intermediate skaters aren’t wanted on WAR skates is another McKenna fantasy. WAR welcomes skaters of all abilities. WAR’s regular Friday night skate is a flat monument loop that is tailored to beginning street skaters. In addition, WAR conducts beginners’ clinics in Rock Creek Park every Saturday. My statement, “If you can’t stop, don’t start,” merely means that one should master braking before skating in traffic. Braking is the second action any skater learns, after basic striding.
Mr. McKenna’s statements concerning the length of skates were likewise misleading. As I told Mr. McKenna during his interview, Wednesday night skates are generally 10 to 12 miles, while Sunday skates are typically 18 to 20. On each skate, we take frequent breaks to get fluids and to allow slower skaters to catch up with the group. Only a few times a year do we skate for as long as five hours or as far as 30 miles.
WAR welcomes publicity. But City Paper should have attempted to make a reasonably accurate portrayal of the in-line skating club, rather than the sensationally skewed, hack reporting that we received.
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