Unlike ski runs, public streets weren’t originally designed for shredding. This can make finding suitable freebording terrain challenging. Unusually steep, long, winding roads are rare in most areas. Add in our need for low traffic and smooth pavement and these gems can be few and far between. So when you do find that epic spot, the last thing you want to do is piss off drivers, residents, or authorities and get the boot. Here are a few guidelines that’ll help you coexist with the locals and preserve your favorite shred spots for years to come:
1. Don’t Advertise – Surfers are notorious for being territorial. There’s just not enough good breaks to go around sometimes, and being secretive about spots is a good way of keeping them secure. Finding a prime new hill is pretty exciting, and the tendency is to share that excitement with your fellow shredders. But before you instagram that street name and location, think twice. Loose lips sink ships. The more you rave about your awesome new hill or include the roads names in your edits or video descriptions, the more likely you are to find a pack of 14 year old longboarders or drift trikers seshing your spot the next time you go. Once a spot gets popular in the downhill community, the local cops and soccer moms are going to take notice and try to ruin our good time. For example, if you discover a sick spot called Dead Man’s Grade, just call it DMG or “the grade” when discussing it online in a public forum. It may seem like overkill to hoard this info, but you can’t un-bust your favorite hill once it’s been blown up…
2. Motorists – Occasionally you’ll run into the local Good Guy Greg driving an old work truck who is super stoked on you and wants to ask about your bord or drive you back up the hill to watch you drop again. This guy is usually the exception to the rule. Most commuters are scared, annoyed, or worse, “worried about our safety” and may call the popo. The majority of the time cops roll to a hill is from these kinds of motorist complaints. Try to avoid these calls in the first place by being aware and respectful of the local drivers. Stay in your lane, don’t play chicken with uphill traffic, and stay off the roadway before and after your run. Let cars pass if they get impatient and wave and smile at them rather than returning that bird they just flipped you.
3. Residents – We’ve all seen this one before. Busy-body old ladies standing in their front yard with their hands on their hips, giving you and your crew the stink-eye for invading “their” streets. Especially in the nicer areas of town where the smooth hills usually are, people get a real sense of entitlement and ownership of the area. After paying their astronomical mortgages, the last thing they want is riff-raff from the next town over having fun (gasp!) out in front of their houses. As annoying as these bitches are, a smile and a wave goes a long way to diffusing the situation and avoiding that phone call to the PD. Be mindful of where you park, don’t set up shop on their lawn or driveway to switch out your wheels and whatever you do, don’t pee on their flowers. They don’t take kindly to that.
4. Cops – I smell bacon, I smell grease, someone fucked up rules 1-3 and here come the police… These encounters can vary wildly. Sometimes you’ll run into a cop that just happens to be patrolling the area. Generally speaking, if you’re not hopping a fence or shotgunning a pabst on your way down the hill, they will leave you alone or just ask a few friendly questions and be on their way. Most of the time, however, they’re there for you. A resident or motorist complained and they need to respond to that complaint. Of course, that doesn’t mean what you’re doing is necessarily illegal. Depending on the jurisdiction and how big of a dick they are, you can get anything from “be safe guys” to “have a seat on that curb and give me your IDs”. Pick a spokesperson with a cool head, usually the token female or oldest guy in your group is a good choice. Explain to them that you’re riding under control and wearing helmets and they might let you continue. If they show any hint of giving you the boot, don’t give them attitude or argue the legality of playing in the street. The magic words are “we were just leaving anyway” – problem solved. Then just head to the next hill over or have a safety meeting and give them some time to leave the area.
Even though these killjoy MFers are usually in the wrong, avoiding confrontations with them can be the difference between regularly shredding your best hills and losing the ability to ride them forever. Don’t be “that guy” and blow the spot for everyone. Be smart and swallow your pride if you need to. It’s a small price to pay.