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Skating the Cities: A personal guide

  • Introduction
  • Tips
  • Minneapolis and Saint Paul
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose, CA
  • Washington, DC
  • Links
  • History
  • Footnotes
  • Rev: 01 Nov 2004.


    I travel a fair bit on business and also to visit friends and family. When I can, I bring my inline skates and explore the town. This is a somewhat dangerous activity; riskier than bicycle commuting but less dangerous (I think) than urban motorcycling. I wear helmets and protective gear, but an errant car or a bad fall can cause serious injury or death. Carry identification. You've been warned.


    1. Find out where the bicycles go, especially commuting routes. Look for bicycle maps and city parks; the neighborhoods around attractive parks often make for fine skating.
    2. Find out where the bad parts of town are, the places to avoid. Hotel staff, to minimize liability, will be very  cautious. Sometimes cab drivers can provide good information.
    3. Buy maps: tourist walking maps, street maps, topo maps, etc. Online maps are rarely useful, but one might consider some of the aerial map sites.
    4. Carry slippers or (best) canvas dancing shoes in a fanny pack.
    5. Wear bright clothing and reflective gear. Wear several flashing red lights if visibility is limited (fog, dark, etc).

    Minneapolis and Saint Paul

    Many, many trails. Not all surfaces are smooth, but few cities have such a range of choices. On the other hand, the outdoor season is not long. This is my home town, so I only provide links for more information:

    San Antonio, Texas

    Prior to visiting San Antonio for a business meeting, I searched the web and Usenet for any guide to inline skating around that area. I found one somewhat obsolete web page describing a Wednesday group skate, but nothing more. So, this is your best (only) guide as of November 2002. I recommend buying the pocket-sized Illustrated Riverwalk map and a conventional street map.

    Most tourists and conventioneers don't venture beyond the downtown Riverwalk area near the Alamo. The Riverwalk (actually more of a canal-walk, but that's being picky) is a commercially and aesthetically successful development; a stunning example of imaginative planning that began in the 1920s. It even has a defensible historical connection to the irrigation channels of Spanish Mexico. The Riverwalk is suited to walking, and maybe jogging when outside the main loop. It is completely unsuited to inline skating, which would be unpleasant (rough surfaces), rude, illegal and dangerous. Given the ubiquitous security forces, any Riverwalk skate would also be very brief.

    Beyond the small downtown area the tourist sees, there's a vast metro area of about 1.5 million people. Despite dry and sunny weather during my Fall visit (June-August is very hot and humid), I did not see much evidence of bicycle or inline skating activity. I saw no off-street trails and only one street marked for bicycle use (just to the north of the downtown area). On the other hand the omnipresent police seemed to have no problems with my polite street and sidewalk skating (being middle-aged and gray may help).

    The street surfaces are mixed at best, with very few stretches of smooth pavement or asphalt. Sidewalks, however, are often fairly wide and quite empty on weekends.

    I skated around much of the downtown area and I subsequently spoke with some knowledgeable locals. Things get dangerous west and south of the downtown (hence the serious policing of the tourist area); one should not go west much beyond the city hall area. I thought the city hall and neighboring areas were worth a Sunday skate, but expect marginal surfaces and lots of traffic lights.

    South of downtown is the King William district; I thought this was the most interesting area to skate around with its attractive houses and relatively smooth streets. Do not, however, seek to travel much further south. A friend and I continued south towards some of the old Spanish missions along the San Antonio river. After crossing some railroad tracks it was hard to ignore the wrecked buildings and gangsta graffiti, not to mention the dark unlit streets. We retreated.

    North of the Alamo, Avenue E is relatively well surfaced; on the weekend it is a quiet street. Broadway allegedly heads north towards through some middle-class neighborhoods and even some relatively wealthy communities, but I did not pass beyond the freeway north of downtown. Broadway is a wide street with scant but fast moving weekend traffic. It does have reasonably skateable sidewalks.

    There are said to be interesting neighborhoods around the airport and to the Northwest near local schools and universities, but one would need a car to get there (or try the local bus system). Motorblade tells me that the suburb of "Encino Belle ....   has smooth streets and limited traffic and quite a few skaters. It is in the Austin direction heading toward Austin on highway 281." Also there has been a Wednesday group skate that started at La Kantina on Cherry St. and Denver.

    Overall, the parts of San Antonio I saw do not have the skating appeal of the great skating towns like San Francisco, Minneapolis, San Diego, Chicago (waterfront), Montreal, Washington or even Boston. San Antonio skating is perhaps on par with New Orleans but below Kansas City. On the other hand in November (and Dec - March!) San Antonio beats Minneapolis by a wide margin, and the authorities seem agreeable.

    San Francisco

    Based on a trip in May of 97. San Francisco is a beautiful but very challenging skating city. It is also a crowded city with narrow roads and crowded paths -- extreme politeness and some caution is advised. There are steep hills (surprise). A fresh brake is recommended. Only fairly expert skaters should leave the flatter areas of town - if you can spin to a stop you're probably ok. A topo map would be most helpful.

    Presidio - Palace of Fine Arts - Marina - Fort Mason

    A pleasant and not too strenuous route with few hills, though the Presidio can be hilly. Traffic and people not as heavy as East of Van Ness, though some areas of the Presidio have heavy traffic.

    Golden Gate Park to Outer Richmond to Laurel to Pacific Heights

    On Sunday the park is closed to traffic and, in the early morning, the other streets are also quieter. Streets with bicycle paths are ideal. This is a strenuous and challenging route for an expert skater. A helmet is adviseable. I began at the east end of Golden Gate Park.

    Lombard East of Hyde

    Just kidding.

    San Jose

    Based on a trip in May of 97. Sunny and warm, not hot. Sites explored are around San Jose Hotel and Convention center, by Plaza de Cesar Chavez. A disappointing city for blading or walking; San Jose is an auto city, similar to LA. Chopped up by freeways. Oddly enough blading seemed somewhat novel to people I met.

    Washington, DC

    A reasonably approachable town. Unfortunately the surfaces of the Rock Creek Parkway trails are often rough and unsuited to skating. I've done much better seeking quiet roads in upper class urban neighborhoods. There are pleasant areas one used to be able to skate around the mall and White House. Many DC urban areas, especially in the embassy area, are very well lit, quiet, and heavily patrolled. They can be good sites for an evening skate.





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