City Sports Magazina Inlne Politics - 1997                          By Jason Doly

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In the battle for the streets of San Francisco, David Miles is one step closer to accomplishing "the decriminalization of something we do every day." If everything goes as planned, Miles and his entourage will be responsible for helping to create a pilot program in San Francisco that could allow skaters to co-exist with cyclists on approved bike routes. However, the proposal is a long way from being a done deal.

City politics in San Francisco has a way of running over skaters just when it looks like green lights and smooth sidewalks ahead. The skaters are all-too-familiar with history's hard lessons. In December 1996, it was confidently predicted that a bill allowing skaters free access to city streets would pass early the following year. After the Board of Supervisors declined to make a decision at their latest meeting, on April 17, skaters are still waiting for approval.

D@palacecs3.jpg (54455 bytes) D. Miles waits patiently with other skaters at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors trying to pass new skate legislation.

In the skater's campaign, Miles has been the front man, while his close friend and associate Paul Pillitteri has acted as the liaison with the Supervisors. Pillitteri has closely followed the changes in the proposed legislation.

Pillitteri initially contacted Supervisor Tom Ammiano who, in turn, took it upon himself to introduce the bill. Miles says Ammiano is a "Champion for the cause He sees us, he believes us and he represents us."

People have been using skating as a healthy alternative means of transportation in the City for years. According to Pillitteri, Ammiano realized

that the way to approach the law was through commuting and health issues, "that skating was just good for the City."

"It's great. I get around safely," says Sally Mead, who skates three-and-a-half miles to work at San Francisco General Hospital.

Curtis Doty, who believes skating is just going to be another tool, skates down from his home to a car-pool pickup where he gets a ride into San Francisco. Doty says, "I don't need coffee in the morning," due to the rush he gets from skating down from the Oakland hills.

Pillitteri believes that the main problem with the law against skating is "Fear based on misconception and fear based on lack of information. The common perception of skaters [is that they] are people who are flailing, falling over backwards down the street."

Skaters have been punished by a 1976 law that technically forbids skating on public streets and sidewalks. In an example of the City's bureaucratic schizoplirenia, they have also been praised and given an award for public service.

On Oct.18, 1996, the San Francisco Police Department started tagging skaters with a $55 fine under the city traffic code. The code states that "It shall be unlawful for any person upon roller skates or riding in or by means of any coaster, skateboard, toy vehicle or other similar device to go upon any sidewalk in any business district or upon any roadway within the City and County of San Francisco."

During a single week, as many as 60 skaters were cited for violating the law, including Miles and two of his children.

A month later, the Board of Supervisors awarded Miles a certificate of appreciation for helping to create the Friday Night Skate. The board called the event "an active, communal and safe Friday night activity that is appreciated by many in San Francisco."

The Friday Night Skate started in 1989, after the Loma-Preita Earthquake. Members of the Golden Gate Skate Patrol started rolling on the vacant Embarcadero Freeway. The freeway had a super-smooth surface that Miles described as a "skater's paradise."

The freeway was torn down and the group switched to skating regularly along the Embarcadero waterfront. Early attendance was 15 to 30 skaters, and the numbers grew until the nocturnal skate achieved a record 702 skaters in May of 1996.

That record-breaking night was one of the most exciting moments for Miles since he formed the Friday Night Skate. On that night, he and his Midnight Rollers followed the Olympic torch from the TransAmerica Building to Justin Herman Plaza in downtown San Francisco.

Miles, known as "D" by skaters and friends, rode from Kansas City to San Francisco on a one-way bus ticket. An ex-bricklayer, he says,"After three weeks of that - 160 weather, California sounded pretty good."

It was March of 1979 in San Francisco, when Miles decided to explore Golden Gate Park. He happened upon the Conservatory of Howers and saw four people whiz by on rollerskates. After four days in the City, "D" had found his calling; he just didn't know it yet.

Miles bought his first pair of skates, blue Sure-grips, and began meeting and skating with people at the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park. Five to eight people met every evening in the park in the old days, he remembers.

The "good old days" were anything but rosy, however. The Recreation and Parks Department wanted to get rid of the skaters. However, Assistant Park Superintendent Peter Ashe formulated a plan to organize them, using skaters to help patrol the eastern end of the 1,017-acre park.

The Recreation and Parks Department told "D" and his friends, "If you join the patrol, you can skate anywhere you want:' Miles says. The "Roller Patrol" formed in May of 1979. Their job was to monitor safety, keep people from skating in restricted areas and help visitors in the park.

Soon after their formation, the patrol disbanded, claiming a lack of freedom. The disgruntled skaters held a meeting and decided to form their own patrol. They voted "D" as one of the leaders of the Golden Gate Skate Patrol in July of 1979.

Although the official "Roller Patrol" died in 1979, the Golden Gate Skate Patrol survived into the '90s. The skate patrol faces a questionable future, though; Miles finds that people who sign up today aren't totally prepared for the commitment. "It's hard work:' he admits.

Miles kept rolling through the years by playing music for crowds of skaters every Sunday at Sixth Avenue and John F. Kennedy Drive. He is president of CORA, the California Outdoor Rollerskaters Association and a skating instructor at the learning Annex as well as the founder of the Friday Night Skate.

In addition to his regular activities, "D" is in charge of a skate from Napa to Calistoga. The event is a 27-mile road skate along the Silverado Trail set for June 21. He also plans to roll with Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi in Golden Gate Park on June 22. Yamaguchi and other celebrities are scheduled to appear in the park to raise funds for charity. On July 26, "D" is heading south to be part of a

100-mile skate from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

Although Miles' to-do list is full, he tries to find time for his family. His wife, Rose, and children Melanie (12), Tiffany (9) and David 111(7) are all skaters them-selves. The children were practically born on skates - all were on wheels by the time they were two years old.

In the meantime, Miles is still waiting for the law that would sanction skating. He wants more free time to work on charity fundraising and donating skates to children, part of his "Skate Against Violence Campaign."

He says, "I have a lot of confidence for the passing of the law." When that day comes, he plans to have a huge party and close the chapter on illegal skating.

"We are going to celebrate:' said Miles.