The City of Hollywood's website proudly touts that the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk — named one of America's Best Beach Boardwalks by Travel+Leisure magazine — is a "haven for joggers, bicyclists, and rollerbladers."
But maybe not for long.
That's because on Wednesday Hollywood's seven-member commission will consider an ordinance that would amend the city's code to ban Rollerblading, roller-skating, and any bicycle with more than two wheels on the 2.2-mile Broadwalk, which spans from North Beach to Georgia Street and offers unobstructed views of the ocean. (Skateboards are already banned.)
But Auggie Van Meter, who turned to roller-skating during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns as a safe and healthy means to escape her own home, says the ban would be devastating to her. She plies the Broadwalk each month, and has found community among others who do the same. Just last weekend, Van Meter organized a meet-up where upward of 30 people from across South Florida glided along the Broadwalk and grabbed a bite to eat when they were done.
"Rollerblading has absolutely exploded in South Florida during the pandemic. We have all these skaters, and we need these safe spaces to skate," Van Meter tells New Times. "We pay our parking fees, we support local businesses and eat at the restaurants. Not only will it affect our [skating community], I think this will affect the economics on the Broadwalk as well."
To help drum up support and sway the commission from passing the ordinance as is, this week Van Meter began circulating an online petition, which had amassed more than 650 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
"Sidewalks and bike paths along A1A are either too narrow and too close to traffic or too irregular (with cracks, holes, rocks, sewage grates etc) making it extremely unsafe for inline skating, rollerskating, and triking," the petition reads in part. "Changing the usage of the Broadwalk would force skaters and trikers to choose between their safety or giving up the activities that have kept them healthy, active, fit, and youthful for so many years." Miami Skatepark Project, advocates for safe and accessible places to skate across South Florida.
"The city is going to have a much bigger problem on its hands when it comes to public safety" if the city passes the skating ban, she says. "People are not going to stop skating. People are just going to find somewhere else where they can skate."
Hollywood City Commissioner Kevin Biederman tells New Times the proposal was brought forth by the Hollywood Police Department and is intended to "make the beach a safer place."
There are other components to the ordinance, such as establishing official hours for the beach (it's closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and banning canopies and shade tents in order to accommodate larger crowds and help officials identify emergency situations.
"There are some activists out there that have created a sky-is-falling atmosphere that has generated panic among some people," Biederman says, adding that he won't publicly take a side on the ordinance until after Wednesday.
No vote is expected on Wednesday, as this will be the first of at least two formal readings to address the matter.