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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
|Because Neighborhoods Count|
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. . . Lack of access is not an excuse for lack of enforcement . . .
Police Department could enforce existing laws if it wanted to
I had trouble understanding what CPD Spokesperson Frank Pasquarello meant when he stated that skateboarders in Cambridge "skateboard in places that police officers often don't have access to, like playgrounds." (Cambridge Chronicle, 5 August, 2004). Surely if skateboarders can walk or skate someplace in order to skateboard, Cambridge Police officers could walk, bike or, as with all the parks in my neighborhood, even drive their cruisers to the same location. Lack of access is not an excuse for lack of enforcement.
Further, CPD's concerns about the safety of the young kids skateboarding in our city would be more believable if the department were more interested in keeping young cyclists safe. Although cycling is clearly a dangerous, even deadly, mode of transportation in Cambridge, the police apparently do not have a policy of getting young kids to wear helmets while cycling. When questioned on this issue, CPD's response is that "One of our biggest problems is that parents are not assisting in the enforcement of this law and safety practice." That may be true, but when I have offered to help CPD put together some sort of program to get youngsters to wear helmets, as required by law for kids under 13, the department's response has been a thunderous silence. At every public event I've attended recently, I've seen young children without helmets bike right past numerous police officers and not one of the officers gave the appearance of caring in the least about the young cyclists' safety.
The point, apparently, is that if you're young and doing something that bothers people, CPD will worry about your safety and the city will make you stop it. If you're simply young and doing something that is dangerous, CPD will, literally, look the other way.
This two-tiered message of what's acceptable is wrong. CPD should immediately develop and implement a program to ensure that young cyclists acquire and maintain the safety habits that will help keep them alive on our streets. The City should also figure out a better way to accommodate our skateboarders' immediate needs rather than telling them to wait for future parks.
And if Commissioner Watson reads this letter, yes, I am still eager to help kids bike safely.