In last April’s installment, The Traffic Issue (click here), I wrote about an ever-present and perilous issue in Figure Skating Town: crowded freestyle sessions. For those of you who have witnessed or experienced everyday practice sessions in one of the thousands of ice rinks across the country, you know that chaos is the name of the game and that skaters collide often. It’s a challenging situation since every skater out there is practicing something different, and therefore carving out a unique path. There is rhyme and reason to what each skater is doing, but no guarantee it won’t crash them into someone else.
Well, at the encouragement of many of you, I contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see if they could help us develop new ways of controlling freestyle traffic. Their report, which I was hoping to present at U.S. Figure Skating’s Annual Governing Council meeting in May, is finally finished. The problem is that I don’t think it’s actually very helpful at all. It proves what most of us already know: that this skating thing is completely unique…and, scary as it may be sometimes, we already have a pretty good thing going.
Here are just a few of their wayward recommendations:
- Paint two solid yellow lines down the middle of the ice surface. This will separate traffic traveling in opposite directions and prohibit passing.
- Install beeping devises in each skater, so that when they are backing up, others will know.
- Have all skaters wear hats with rearview mirrors so they can see behind them.
- Outfit each skater with GPS wristwatches, so that they can identify the best route to their next element.
- Install stoplights at the blue lines.
- Hire local policemen to enforce rink traffic laws.
- Open a skating traffic school and require each skater to obtain a permit before skating on a freestyle session. This would include obstacle courses, methods of parallel parking along the barriers, and learning which skaters have the right of way.
- Provide each skater with gloves featuring turn signals. These blinking lights will let other skaters know which way they are planning to turn.
- Give every skater a horn they can honk incessantly when traffic is not moving to their satisfaction. This will save their vocal chords.
Okay, so here are the only recommendations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that I can really endorse:
- Outfit every skater with a full suit of foam rubber to serve as bumpers if they crash into one another or the barriers.
- Have the brakes checked regularly.
- Coaches should wear neon orange construction suits so they can be better seen by oncoming traffic. (After all, coaching is a construction project of sorts…)
Finally, here are a few of my recommendations, based on my own studies of rink traffic:
- Open your eyes.
- Look around.
- Pay attention.
- Be polite.
These may sound pretty obvious, but we all know these skills are not always, eh hem… fully utilized. Hey, forget those fancy, US government traffic scientists – maybe I will present my own concepts at Governing Council after all…
Anyway, happy rink travels.