Creating a new skateable city in the UK

Marioland in Sheffield, Skateboarder: Myles Rushforth

A new skateboard area opened this month in Sheffield City Centre, providing a fresh way of thinking of installing skateboard friendly infrastructure in our cities

The Marioland project is a series of blocks and rails installed on an existing smooth street in the centre of Sheffield, with materials donated by local building contractors. Unlike skateparks, which are usually located in parks, this facility has been installed on a pedestrian street, with shops and bars lining the side of the street.

The Castlegate district of the city is run-down and has been hit with anti-social problems recently. It is expected that skateboarders will create guardianship over the area, making the area feel safe again for people walk through. This approach has been used in various cities in the USA, where members of the public see people skateboarding and feel safe knowing that there are other people around.

Skateboarding has always been an urban activity, so the creation of this type of facility re-installs the very nature of the sport and also creates vibrancy, a spectacle for people to watch and area that can be enjoyed by all users. This ‘Shared Spaces’ concept has been shown to be hugely successful in Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark, and has been replicated to a degree in Hull and Glasgow.

There have been various examples of skateboarding gentrifying urban areas, where this project differs, is that if successful in the next 2 years, it will pave the way for more skateable architecture to be installed in other areas of the city centre, when restoration commences.

Neil Ellis from Skateboard GB said “It is really exciting to see this local project come to fruition, as it has been years in the making. It will provide a great space for Sheffield’s skateboard community and also make this area of the city safe for others to use once again”.

Chris Lawton, Senior Lecturer, Economics, Nottingham Trent University, co-founder of Skate Nottingham commented “I’m really pleased to see this project reach fruition. It places the interests of young people, and their right to be active and together, centre stage within the wider regeneration of a neighborhood that’s been scarred by high street closures.  Rather than consigning young people to peripheral spaces, as happens in so many other projects.”.

“It’s a relatively low cost intervention that enables benefits and challenges to be explored, as a potential demonstrator to be adopted in multiple locations in Sheffield and other UK cities.”

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member in Sheffield said “The work has been delivered in partnership with Skateboard GB and local firms is a great example of the support and goodwill that the regeneration of Castlegate is attracting” “Providing this space for people to use will not just create a purpose-built space for skateboarders, but will also benefit surrounding businesses and help to make the area a thriving social space.”

Last month Skateboard England and Skateboard GB released the first official guidance for designing and building skateparks and skateable spaces, incorporating elements of creating skateable cities. Research has now begun on developing the a revised version of the guidance, which will incorporate shared spaces guidance in the revised version next year.

CLICK HERE – Skateboard Facilities information

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