Longboarding In The City: 10 Tips That Can Save Your Life

longboarding in the city

There are good reasons for longboarding in the city, namely if you live in or near one! You may use your longboard for transportation around the city or commute to work on your longboard every day from across town or from the outskirts. Or you may ride longboard to get around your university campus located in the middle of the city.

Besides transport, many city dwellers take to longboarding for leisure and fitness on weekends. Typically you’ll be riding on scenic bike paths around the city or in beautiful green park trails. See my posts about longboarding in the cities of New York, San Francisco, or San Diego.

Outside of dedicated bike paths and city park trails, longboarding in a city center can be challenging and dangerous due to busy car, cycle, and pedestrian traffic, numerous obstacles of all types, and uneven pavement or sidewalk surfaces.

In this post, I discuss some essential tips and tricks for making it alive and well when longboarding in the city.

longboarding in the city

Tip #1: stick to bike lanes where possible

Bike lanes are probably your best bet when longboarding in the city, as they are (normally) clear of cars. Of course, they can get vert crowded with bicycles at certain hours, so longboarding in them is not always practical.

When riding in a bike lane on your longboard, be sure to stick to your half lane and not ride the wrong way to avoid collision with bikes coming across from you.

As you’re planning to longboard across the city along a route you haven’t done before, always check pavement conditions before using Google maps’ street view photos!

Tip #2: be careful when riding on sidewalks

If there are no bike lanes, or if they get too crowded, you may ride on the sidewalk assuming the foot traffic is manageable. Longboarding on a crowded city sidewalk is not easy. You need to keep an eye of how fast and which way pedestrians on both sides, those in front of you, and even those behind you (in case you need to brake) are walking. You also need to continuously indicate your path to oncoming pedestrians using body language (eyes, body position) so they don’t get scared and suddently jump to the side.

You must also stay on the lookout for bigger cracks in the sidewalk so as not to catch a wheel – even if you’re running big soft wheels.

Tip #3: respect traffic lights and stop signs

This one applies to when you’re riding in car traffic. It may sound obvious, but when longboarding in the city you may at times be tempted to run traffic lights and stop signs – being only a pedestrian on wheels! Riding safe requires respecting traffic rules, there are enough hazards without adding the risk of collision at intersections.

Stop sign confusion can be a problem when longboarding in crowded city areas. Even if you stop at a stop sign, if there are drivers also waiting to go through across the intersection, it’s essential that you communicate with them e.g. wave them across (or wait for them to wave you across). Avoid at all cost bad communication where everyone starts moving at the same time from the stop sign!

Tip #4: signal well before turning

I already sort of mentioned this with regards to riding on sidewalks, but applies to all situations such as longboarding in the street. You should ALWAYS signal your path, lane changes, and turns in a clear and visible way.

You should of course use your hands and arms to indicate your intentions to drivers. You can also hook up a blinker on your back for better signalling when visibility is lower, such as at dusk or nightime.

Tip #5: anticipate driver behavior

When longboarding in city traffic, the key to your safety to always analyze and anticipate what other cars are doing or about to do. Whether or not a driver is signaling, for example, always be ready for a car to turn right fast before other cars get in the way.

You should always be conscious of everything that’s going on around you and continuously be looking over your shoulder and to the sides. Things to look out for at all times include children running, cars pulling out or backing out etc. Always ride defensively in the city. Be prepared to quickly step off your longboard, grab it and onto the sidewalk.

Tip #6: hold your middle lane

longboarding in the city - hold your lane

A common debate regarding longboarding in city traffic is whether or not you should always ride on rightmost lane. Some riders disagree with that because many times, cars will overtake you in that lane barely leaving any space for you to move and effectively pushing you onto the curb.

Also, parked cars can be you worst ennemies if you’re riding in the far right lane: drivers commonly will pull out suddenly without warning or abruptly open the car door, focring you to swirve into the next lane to the left and risk hitting a car or city bus.

As a result, if there’s no bike lane available, many experienced city longboarders prefer to strongly claim a lane and stick to it.

Whatever lane you choose, when arriving at a traffic light, avoid riding between cars to the front, as one of the cars might switch lanes quickly to beat traffic as soon as the light turns green without warning and checking for clearance.

Tip #7: adapt your path

When longboarding in city traffic, you need to stay flexible in the route you choose to get from point A to point B. For example, if your regular path has a steep hill with several lights, but you experience unusually heavy traffic, you may want to go switch to a different path, e.g. take to the sidewalks or move through smaller streets.

Tip #8: resist towed riding

It can be tempting when longboarding in the city to just grab a slow-moving car or bus and save time and pushing by letting the vehicle pull you through the streets on your path. This is obviously a dangerous activity as the car or bus can stop or turn any time and send you flying off your board or even run you over!

Tip #9: watch out for cyclists and dogs

I already mentioned pedestrians can be a hazard when longboarding in the city – you need to always keep an eye on them and anticipate their path.

Cyclists are also something to watch out for, particularly reckless bike messengers who ride extremely fast and move all over the city streets and sidewalks.

Also be very careful when longboarding near dogs, as they can have unpredictable reactions when you roll near them, with nasty potential consequences for the skater. Try to steer clear from dogs if you can, including those on a leash.

Tip #10: wear a helmet, secure your backpack

Wearing a helmet is common sense when longboarding in the city, particularly if riding in car traffic – check out my full post and survey on whether longboarders wear helmets.

While on the topic of gear, if you’re hauling a backpack across the city on your longboard, make sure it’s well-secured on your back and won’t swing and risk throwing you off-balance or hitting a pedestrian, bike, or car you’re riding alongside.

It’s also a good idea to carry a skate tool with you when riding in the city, especially for longer travels. This will allow you to tighten any loose screws or adjust your kingpin e.g. if you want quicker turns on the sidewalk or more stable pushing on longer stretches of smooth pavement.

Some longboarders carry a first-aid kit when riding and commuting in the city.

Conclusion: always assume the worst!

Not to be a party-pooper, but you should always be prepared for the worst scenarios when longboarding in the city. Assume everyone around you is reckless, stressed out, or distracted. You need to behave like in a video game, anticipating the consequences of other people’s behavior and physical obstacles that come up as you ride the streets and sidewalks. In short, longboarding in the city is certainly no walk in the park.

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Photo credits:
– Featured “From Light Comes Darkness” by @ChristianRosillo – Rider: @JongbinJo – Permission: Loaded Boards
– “Traffic” (CC BY 2.0) by Incase.
– “Shannon skates through traffic” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by annulla

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About me

Big Kahuna

Hi I'm Jesse. All my life I've been passionate about the board riding lifestyle. Some years ago I got into longboarding, and in doing so, I discovered a whole new universe and a fantastic community. There's something for everyone in longboarding regardless of age, gender, size, and fitness level. Ride on!

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