Frequently Asked Questions About the Central Park Skate Patrol
Skate Patrollers often get asked the same questions many times. Here are answers to some of the questions we're asked most frequently.
What does the Skate Patrol do?
Are you a skate club?
Do you get paid?
How are you supported?
Do you write tickets or arrest people?
What's the fastest way to brake?
How do you use the heel brake?
I already know how to use the heel brake. What other ways are there to stop?
Can you teach me how to do a hockey stop or a power slide?
Is the ABT brake better than the "old" style brake?
What safety gear should I wear?
Why should I wear a helmet?
Skating in Central Park
Where can I rent skates to use in the park?
What's the best place to skate in the park and when is it closed to cars?
What kind of skates should I buy?
Is there a skating rink?
Q: What does the Skate Patrol do?
A: We operate a Stopping Clinic where we give free braking lessons for skaters who want to learn to use their heel brake. We also patrol the park, dispense bandages and antiseptic wipes, provide directions, and occasionally call the police or an ambulance when necessary.
Q: Are you a skate club?
A: No. If you're interested in joining a skate club, try the Empire Skate Club of New York.
Q: Do you get paid?
A: No. All Patrollers are volunteers, and do not get paid for their services.
Q: Do you write tickets or arrest people?
A: No. The Central Park Skate Patrol is not authorized to enforce the law. However, we work closely with the Police and Parks Departments to report any crime we see.
Q: What's the fastest way to brake?
A: When used properly, the heel brake is the most stable and efficient method of stopping because both skates remain on the ground.
Q: How do you use the heel brake?
A: Come to one of our Stopping Clinics and find out! Or, see our heel brake tutorial.
Q: I already know how to use the heel brake. What other ways are there to stop?
A: T-stop, spin stop, hockey stop, power slide, snowplow.
Q: Can you teach me how to do a hockey stop or a power slide?
A: Sorry, we're here to teach people how to use the heel brake. If you already know how to use the heel brake and would like to learn more advanced skating techniques, consider taking classes at our Skate School.
You can find tutorials on stopping techniques in the Stopping Techniques section of the rec.sport.skating.inline FAQ, available at http://www.skatefaq.com/.
Q: Is the ABT brake better than the "old" style brake?
A: A couple of years ago Rollerblade introduced the ABT (Advanced Braking Technology) style heel brake which has since been imitated by other skate manufacturers, each of which has their own name for it. (Note: ABT is not to be confused with ABS, the Anti-lock Braking System used in cars, or DBS, Ultrawheels' Disc Brake System.) Basically, the ABT-style brake minimizes the need to lift the toe of your braking foot.
We've found that for the most part it's easier for skaters to learn to stop using the ABT-style brake than with the "old" style brake because all four wheels usually remain on the ground. I say "usually" because In practice this isn't always true; the brake may be adjusted high enough that you must still lift your toe to get the brake to engage (i.e. touch the ground). Also, the more the brake wears down, the more likely it is you'll have to lift your toe to get it to engage.
That said, it should also be noted that the ABT has several potential disadvantages. Because the ABT brake is lower to the ground than the "old" style brake, the ABT brake often drags when you don't want it to. This rates anywhere from a minor annoyance when you're going up a hill, to a downright hazard when you're trying to learn to skate backward (because the brake may catch on the ground and send you flying backward).
For more information on braking systems, see the Braking Systems section of the RSSI Skate FAQ.
Q: What safety gear should I wear?
A: The Skate Patrol strongly urges all skaters to wear, at minimum, wrist guards and a helmet. We encourage people to use knee and elbow pads as well.
Q: Why should I wear a helmet?
A: In Central Park, three skaters and a cyclist died of head injuries sustained in separate accidents. None were wearing a helmet. Countless other skaters (not to mention bikers) have suffered serious injuries as a result of not wearing a helmet. Skate Patrollers have seen more accidents than most people, and if there's one thing we've learned it's to always wear a helmet while skating.
Regardless of your skating ability, wearing a helmet reduces your risk of getting a serious head injury. Of course, there's no guarantee that you won't get hurt, but the significant reduction in risk makes it well worth wearing a helmet. Besides, it's also required by law for all children age 14 and under to wear a helmet while skating. (For more information, see the Law section of the NYC Inline Skating Guide or the Bicycles and In-Line Skates FAQs from the New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC).)
Here are some common excuses we've heard for not wearing a helmet:
- "There are no cars around."
- "I'll go very slowly."
- "I won't try any tricks."
- "I'm an experienced skater."
- "I know how to fall."
- "I've never fallen on my head."
- "I'll be careful not to fall on my head."
- "I've got a hard head."
- "If I get hit by a truck, a helmet isn't going to help me."
- "It messes up my hair."
- "It's uncomfortable."
- "It looks dorky."
- "Nobody else is wearing a helmet."
- "Helmets cost too much money."
None of these excuses holds water. We could recite grizzly eyewitness descriptions of skaters (of all skill levels) who we've seen fall on their heads and end up with fractured skulls, blood coming out of their ears, going into convulsions, ending up in comas, and even dying, but we'd rather not resort to such scare tactics. Why not just wear your helmet and save us the trouble of scraping your brains off the pavement?
Not convinced yet? Take a look at All it Takes is Just One Slip, an article from Liz Miller's Get Rolling web site.
If you think helmets are too expensive, think again. Do you really want to risk your brain just to save a mere $50 or so? Even the least expensive helmet is better than none at all.
Skating in Central Park
Q: Where can I rent skates to use in the park?
A: You can rent skates from Central Park Sightseeing, 56 West 56th St (between 5th and 6th Ave), phone (212) 975-0785.
Q: What's the best place to skate in the park and when is it closed to cars?
A: The main loop around the park is closed to cars all weekend year-round, and from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm on weekdays from January 1 through Thanksgiving. The Park is also closed to traffic year-round from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. The biker/skater/runner lane on the main loop is always available for skating.
Q: What kind of skates should I buy?
A: The Skate Patrol doesn't recommend any particular brand or model of skates, although individual Patrollers may have a personal preference. In general, we recommend you get skates that feel comfortable. You can also do some research on the Web, starting at the IISA In-Line Skate Buying Guide and the rec.sport.skating.inline FAQ.
Regardless of which skates you buy, the Skate Patrol strongly recommends you also purchase wrist guards and a helmet. We encourage you to use knee and elbow pads as well.
Q: Is there a rink?
A: Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink are both located in Central Park and are available for ice skating in the winter. Other rinks in NYC are located at Rockefeller Center, Chelsea Piers, and Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
These rinks are not affiliated with the Central Park Skate Patrol. Please see their web sites for more information.