Feature Article - January 2004
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Homes for Boarders and Bikers

Ultimate skate park designs for style, safety and performance

By Kyle Ryan

Determining what you need

Before the design process can really begin, you have to determine who will be using the park and what they need. Basically, there are three groups of users: skateboarders, inline skaters and BMX bikers. With each activity come specific requirements.

While inline skaters and skateboarders can generally use the same facilities (though the finish on inline skate wheels can cause surfaces to become slippery), BMX bikes require everything to be bigger: transitions, ramps, obstacles.

"If you're trying to average between all these things, ultimately what happens is you create a mediocre experience for everybody," Coleman says.

Many skate park designers will accommodate bikes in the design, but they're often banned in skate parks or only allowed with restrictions. Bike pegs can dent the metal coping on the lips of ramps and bowls (though heavy-gauge coping might withstand it), which create hazards for skaters when they grind. Damaged coping can be an expensive item to repair.

"Coping's hard to replace because it's metal that's set into the concrete while they're pouring it," Coleman says. "So they basically have to break out the lip of that ramp to replace the whole thing, which ultimately screws up the construction because you've basically got to repour the entire transition for it to be as smooth as it originally was."

As expensive as the possible equipment damage can be, it's not the main problem when it comes to multiple user groups.

"Mixing causes problems, not necessarily the structures," Coleman says. "Everybody has a different way of approaching an obstacle—different speed, different conditions—you get a lot of collisions between the various groups."

Different users will have different runs, and they will often dangerously intersect. To decrease the risk of collisions, some parks will design separate areas for each user group. A lower cost alternative is to offer separate sessions for each activity.

No matter who's using the park, the design needs a certain flow—bowls that empty into street areas, street courses with starting ramps on each end, and so on. Designers crunched for space will underestimate the amount of space people need to start their runs. A related problem comes from trying to cram too many obstacles in too small a space.

To maintain proper distance between obstacles, Moss recommends making the pad (the slab of concrete or asphalt on which everything's built) at least 90 feet long, with each obstacle being 16 feet to 20 feet apart. (See sidebar on page 16 for types of obstacles.)

Do You Speak Skater?

Metal piping placed at the lip of ramps or the edges of boxes used for grinding and other tricks

Modular obstacles with small ramps leading up to long platforms, often with rails, grind boxes, stairs and ledges attached in various arrangements

Raised platforms with metal coping on the edges for grinding

U-shaped ramps with two raised sections facing each other separated by transitions and a flat section. The lip of the ramps are lined with coping.

Pyramid-shaped obstacles that have a flat platform at the top, often used in conjunction with rails and grind boxes

One end of a halfpipe. Can be used as attractions themselves or to get speed for obstacles

Long, thin metal components resembling handrails that can be flat or slanted

Ramp obstacles that are rounded or peaked at the top. The peaked varieties will often have coping.

Quarterpipes without transitions. They tend to go to the ground at a constant angle, with a small amount of curvature near the bottom.