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From the front page of the Sunday Napa Valley Register Sept. 27, 1998

Race draws skaters and CHP                       Racers don't like law that requires them to go against flow of traffic, but they obey By DAWNYA PRING                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Register Staff Writer


Highway Patrol safety concerns did not st6p a swarm of skaters from participating in an early morning race on Silverado Trail Saturday. About 150 inline skaters braved the trail and its traffic to race in the Napa-to-Calistoga Roadskate, a 26.8-mile inline skating marathon. Every skater made it safely to the finish line, despite safety concerns among race organizers who bridle at a state law that requires him or her to travel in the opposite direction of motor vehicles.

When California Outdoor Rollerskating Association officials first tried to organize the race, they ran into opposition from county and CHP officials who considered the race too dangerous.

The skate event began in 1993 and was held four times a year until July 21, 1997, when 250 people participated - all skating in the same direction as traffic.

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On that day, five skaters crossed the white line dividing the shoulder from the road and skated into the r6adway, according to David Miles, president of the skating association. The five skaters' actions triggered alarms with the CHP.

"We want people to have a good time. Our only concern is safety," said CHP Sgt. Edward Moriarty. "Most of these people aren't from this area and they don't understand how dangerous this stretch of road can be."

Miles said the 1997 event caused the CHP to examine the state's Vehicle Code. Officials concluded that skaters are classified as pedestrians and are required to travel against the flow of traffic, not with it. So, at the next event in August 1997, skaters switched to the left side of the road. Miles said participants disliked the change and the event fizzled.

Miles is now leading a statewide campaign to give inline skaters the same legal status as bicyclists, allowing them to travel with the flow of traffic. "When this law was made, skaters were going 5 mph on steel or plastic wheels. Now skaters can catch speeds of 40 mph when going down hill. Technology has gone far beyond what the law covers," Miles said.

"This is how you design an accident," he said. In addition to the heavy auto traffic, bicycles also frequent Silverado Trail and ride with traffic. That worries skaters, who fear the prospects of a skater gliding at 20 mph and hitting cyclists going 30 mph, Miles said.

Miles believes that as skating continues to grow in popularity, collisions will become more frequent unless the laws are changed. "Classifying skaters with walkers and joggers is outdated," said Miles.

Control over skating on the county's public roads remains clouded because the county and CHP share jurisdiction over them. But only a change to the state's Vehicle Code will allow inline enthusiasts to legally travel with traffic.

Many of the skaters at Saturday's event didn't expect to be skating on a road open to vehicles.

"I came out particularly for this event," said Drew Lusk of New York. "I usually skate in Central Park, but I thought I'll come out here and visit friends and have a pleasant ride in the Napa Valley. I wasn't expecting this."

Miles said the skaters were trying to be as safety conscious and cooperative as they could be. Miles also leads a Friday night skate in San Francisco that attracts more than 700 skaters.

CHP temporarily closed intersections along Silverado Trail and used slow moving police cars to control car speeds, according to Moriarty.

The race culminated up valley at the Calistoga Ranch Resort on Lommel Road with a barbecue.

Bryan Mackay of San Francisco won in the men's division with a time of 1 hour, 10 minutes and 59 seconds and Ingrid Gabrian of San Francisco won for the women with a time of I hour, 20 minutes and 11 seconds.