By Lorne Milne
As published in ‘Fitness & Speed Skating Times’ Magazine Vol.11 #4, Winter 2000
‘Top Inline Cities: 2000 Ranking of Great Skates in N. America)’
Lorne Milne is Seymour Forest National Skate Patrol Director; an IISA inline skating Instructor (multiple levels) & examiner, teaching at LM BladeSkool in Vancouver, B.C.
‘I’m sure most readers are like me & never go on vacations without their inline skates, so knowing the hotspots is a vital part of holiday planning. I’ve made it to most of North America’s top rolling locations & I thought it time for an up-to-date ranking. I invite FaSST reader’s comments & other locations to add to this list. My Personal Ranking:
- #1 New York Citytops the list as the ‘the scene’ with huge volumes of bladders (over 1000 an hour skating past any one spot on Central Park’s roadway during park closures at peak periods), the biggest roller dance anywhere in Central Park on the weekends (with supreme skaters like Felix Santiago & Steve Kaye), pathway development on the East River, an excellent Skate Patrol chapter, & happening skater club.
- #2 San Franciscocomes in next as the top west coast scene with its exciting Friday night Midnight Roll ( 8 pm to midnight) giving the best guided tour of San Francisco, plus the Golden Gate Park Sunday closure to autos (bringing out thousands of bladders & an amazing roller-dance scene on 6th Street in the Park), the Rail-to-Trail conversions in the suburbs, &* the local races including the Napa Valley Marathon.
- #3 Vancouver, BC is Canada’s #1 location with a summertime scene of a great skating pathway along the ocean that runs around Stanley Park for 10K & then hooks up with the English Bay Pathway. The pathway is separated from the pedestrian seawall pathway & has over 700 bladers an hour going by at peak periods. That pathway hooks up to the Sunset Bach outside roller rink (great for tricks, roller-dance & showing your stuff). The Sunset Beach Roller-Hockey Rink & the Burrard Street Bridge Hill (with great slalom cone riders). The pathway then hooks on to the False Creek Pathway (probably the best designed pathway in North America) & then continues to the Indy Car Track (the best place to learn to blade in North America with huge acreage of premium pavement right on the water’s edge.) Throw in the other local trails & the Seymour Forest amazing blade road (no cars allowed) with its very advanced hill work, & you’ll have a great skate holiday (& then you can scoot up to Whistler’s blading paths).
- #4 Los Angeles’ huge skater population rolling along the beach pathway from Santa Monica to Venice Beach to Long Beach probably created more ads & image for our sport than anywhere else. The Sunday afternoon roller-dance session at Venice Beach is cookin’ & the Long Beach Marathon is where west coast racers plan to be!
- #5 Montreal. Quebec has been a bit of a secret outsiders (maybe because they speak French), but it has the biggest indoor skating facility in North America, maybe the world, at the Taz Mahal. There’s also big inline skating activity downtown though their city bike & blade lanes (which have a concrete divider separating them from auto traffic plus they have 3-foot square inline skate symbols painted on them). Take the Berri Street blading lane down to the waterfront to hook onto terrific blading pathways that will take you to the Village of Lachine or over to their huge Indy Race Track.
- #6 Philadelphia is a location everyone has to skate eventually. From the Landskater’s Club great Freedom Skate event to city skates (the Philly Skate Patrol puts on the best organized city skates in North America) it’s amazing the energy this city has for inline skating.
- #7 Calgary shines for its infrastructure with North America’s most blading pathways (400+ km). The Bow River routes are lovely & often go under bridges so you don’t have to compete with cars at intersections. The new Millenium Park has provided a skate park which will spice up the aggressive scene. It would be nice to see Calgary put in a freestyle/dance roller-rink & a roller-hockey rink on the pathway at Eau Claire Market to crank up the local blading scene a notch.
- #8 Seattle has emerged as a NorthWest hot spot with the Seattle Super-Skate Marathon on the Burke Gilman Trail, a growing blading scene at Alki Beach, an active Skate Patrol at Green Lake, a regular summer time Friday night skate through the WILSA club, several indoor rinks, tons of trails, & a very active IISA group of instructors organizing lots of courses & events.
- #9 San Diegowith its year-round nice weather, pathways on the Embarcadero, Mission Beach & Mission Bay, its Friday night skates with the Skate Coalition. Its Saturday & Sunday roller-dance scene with the ‘Skate This’ club is a fun spot to skate. In the early days of blading, it was generally considers one of the Numbero Uno locations, but poor quality surfaces with concrete sections, uneven ridges & narrow pathways along Mission Beach that have not been twinned alongside of the pedestrian path know down the ranking of San Diego! It would be great for local planners to get a look at new pathways in Vancouver & Seattle before they start work on anything new.
- #10 Chicago is the only place here I’ve not skated but all the reports give it an excellent review. The pathways along the lakeside are well designed. There are lots of events & active Skate Patrol. Heidi Goldwater (NSP Director) raves about it so it’s on my list to get there soon!
- #11 South Beach Miami is one of the most scenic places to skate, It may be one of the shortest pathways around, but the city is skate friendly for ‘rad’ skating. The district’s art deco buildings are great to look at, the cone skaters are hot, they have dance/freestyle on the board walk, the Skate Patrol is happening, & there are bikini-clad bladders everywhere!
- #12 Ottawa. Canada’s capital is 1 of the prettiest places & has the 2nd most blading paths in North America (170K) which runs along the Ottawa River, Rideau Canal & over to Hull, Quebec. The pathway surfaces are smooth & skaters spread out over the trails so congestion is not a problem. It would be great to see them put a dance roller-rink, a roller-hockey rink, & a cone area along the pathway so there would be more of an outside happening scene.
- #13 Washington, D.C. is tons of fun to skate from the memorials to the skate scene on the Avenue behind the White House ( with Hockey pick-up games; many slalom cone riders, lots skater ‘hang-arounders’), the local skate club & the Skate Patrol.
- #14 Torontohas really developed a nice trail along the lake (heading all the way to Hamilton) with good surface materials & lane markings. You can take it downtown & take a 15 minute ferry out to the Toronto Islands & have one of the most romantic skates on the trails that run by all the quaint cottagers (residents use bikes & trailers instead of cars) & cross wooden bridges that connect the islands. Toronto also needs a focus location with an outdoor dance area/roller rink, roller-hockey rink, & cone area to develop an outdoor drop in skating scene.
- #15 Fort Lauderdale is more than a spring break party with its inline skating popularity along the beachfront, its active Skate Patrol, & police on inline skates. It’s too bad that the beachfront didn’t have a higher quality pathway, but has tough competition for space there. However the warm weather makes it a great place to hang out on your blades!
- #16 Portland was a booming skate city until a ban on downtown skating. However hardcore bladers have kept it happening skating along the River Walk route & at the indoor rinks.
- #17 Victoria, B.C. Canada’s bit of England has recently put in the Galloping Goose Rail-to-Trail conversion which runs right downtown. There I like to skate into Chinatown or by the historic Empress Hotel. Definitely a blading tourist destination. They also need to create a central focus scene with some outdoor facilities like a roller-rink, cone course & freestyle rink.
Now it’s you turn…..
I challenge readers to add to this list so we can identify the top 50 locations in North America. Raters should take into account: CITY INFRASTRUCTURE! Does it have miles of paved pathways? Is the surface smooth with a painted divider line? Is the pathway separated from pedestrian pathways? Does it connect with blader destinations? Are there parks for aggressive skaters & are there good locations for races or training? EVENT ORGANIZATION! Are there races, clubs, Skate Patrol, general event, etc. SKATER ACTIVITY! If you are going to do a blader count, pick a spot during peak activity, do a count for 10 minutes, never counting the same person twice, then multiply by 6 to get your hourly count. PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE! Have you skated any of these top spots so that you have a sense of comparison?