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MIT Bans In-Line Skates from Halls

By Karen Kaplan
Executive Editor

In-line roller skates, including the very popular Rollerblade skates, have been added to the list of "personal transportation systems" now banned in MIT buildings and parking structures.

Students who have grown accustomed to gliding down the Infinite Corridor are upset by the rule, which will carry a $25 fine for violations starting on Jan. 28.

The new ban on in-line skates, recommended by the Institute Committee on Safety, is an extension of the prohibition against the use of skateboards, bicycles, and other similar transportation systems inside MIT buildings.

The policy change was motivated by "numerous complaints by faculty, staff, and some students" who were concerned about their personal safety, said Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin. "There have been lots of very near collisions and very shaken-up people," she said.

However, Glavin said she did not know of any specific injuries caused by in-line skating.

David J. Kessler '94, Undergraduate Association vice president, said the UA's Executive Board has discussed the issue but has not made any formal statement about the ban. "We wanted to make sure things were thoroughly thought through," he said.

"I think there's a possibility that the concerns of the few are overriding the interests of a great majority," Kessler said. "I think the time people save and the enjoyment they get out of Rollerblades may outweigh the safety concern, which seems very minor," he added. Kessler said he does not own a pair of in-line skates.

Kessler also said the UA's Safety Committee is looking at the ban and will report to the ExecBoard before the next UA Council meeting in February.

"I have Rollerblades, and I'm kind of annoyed," said Sarah L. Wheeler '93. "The halls here seem to have the best Rollerblading conditions in the city. And now what do I do when I'm late for an appointment?"

Patricia L. Dunlavey '94 also opposes the ban. "I paid almost $200 for a pair of Rollerblades specifically for the purpose of getting to classes on time," she said. "They seemed to be more reasonable than a bicycle because I don't have to worry about them being stolen."

Carlos E. Garcia '92 agreed that in-line skating does "introduce some fear into the hallways." But as an avid in-line skater, he said, "the good it does far outweighs the bad." He said the benefits for in-line skaters are convenience and time savings.

Glavin said that other, less severe measures were considered instead of a complete ban on in-line skates, but were abandoned because they were infeasible.

"We seriously considered imposing a speed limit, but monitoring was a problem," she said. Installation of speed bumps was also considered, but that idea was abandoned as well.

Wheeler suggested that restricting in-line skaters to the second floor of the Institute could be a solution.

Instead of banning in-line skating entirely, Garcia said that an ideal solution would be to allow skaters who show proficiency to skate. "I can stop within 3 feet, but I know there are bad skaters," he said.

`Walkers are the problem'

Wheeler, Dunlavey, and other students agree that at least some in-line skaters are skating out of control down hallways, creating a legitimate safety threat.

"I've seen people careening recklessly down the halls, and I agree that something should be done about that," Dunlavey said. "If these people had any common courtesy, there wouldn't be a problem."

Although she admitted to running into people on her skates from time to time, she said these collisions were usually not her fault. "The problem is the walkers! When they trek down the halls of MIT, they get lost in their own little worlds. They're not paying attention. They turn corners quickly, they make sharp turns without looking, they stop in the middle of the hallway, they weave back and forth across the hallway."

Glavin said, "Safety aspects are at the root of this decision." She added that she hopes awareness of the safety issue will rise so that enforcement of the policy will not be necessary.