Home life lessons What NOT To Do When Rollerblading in the City (or 12 Really Bad Rollerblading Tips)

What NOT To Do When Rollerblading in the City (or 12 Really Bad Rollerblading Tips)

written by Head Health Nutter July 13, 2008


A couple of days ago, I posted about how fitness is important to survival , referring to my boxing match with a Mazda earlier that afternoon. It was about due, considering I’ve been an avid, long-distance inline skater in Toronto for over 10 years now, 0 accidents; thank you very much.

 But Friday was my lucky day because even though I’ve been meaning to pick up a helmet lately, I hadn’t yet and wasn’t wearing one when I ran into the Mazda. Thankfully, I didn’t hit my head. But I realize the error of my ways now, as part of healthy living is reducing the threats to your life. I love my life and I no longer want to take unnecessary risks with it.

 So rather than stop rollerblading altogether because of the dangers, here’s an incomplete list of what NOT to do when rollerblading in the city, or 12 really bad rollerblading tips (depending on how you want to read it):

  1. Go against traffic – city streets are busy and in most cases, traffic moves through them like gears in a well-oiled machine. When you ride against the traffic, you may upset the balance of this graceful dance. Drivers expect us to be going with traffic, and they most likely spend more time looking in that direction.
  2. Blade on the sidewalk – the streets were made for pedestrians! But if you are blading on the sidewalk, blade on the right and pass on the left. Also, speak up when you’re coming up behind a pedestrian and announce, “Passing on the left!” Or you can jump into the grass, run past them and jump back onto the sidewalk. Although extremely fun, you may give a few pedestrians severe heart palpitations if you don’t also yell, “Passing on the right in the grass!”
  3. Blade in the streets – hmm… you see the conundrum here, don’t you? The problem with rollerblading is that you’re not a pedestrian but you’re not riding a big metal contraption, either. And as far as I could find, there are no Toronto rollerblading bylaws to guide us towards safety either. Obviously, blading in parks and on cycling paths is the safest bet.

    But some people use rollerblades to commute, so in cases where you must blade in Toronto streets, alternate between the sidewalk and the streets. Blade on the sidewalks when they are clear of pedestrians, and in the street when the sidewalks are busy.

  4. Choose NOT to wear protective gear – ok, life is a risk and it’s really up to you. But from now on for me, I’ll be wearing a helmet, elbow and knee pads, and wrist guards when my route includes heavy automobile traffic for more than half the trip.
  5. Don’t check your equipment – this might be a little anal for some but again, everyone accepts their own preferred level of risk. You’ll just have to weigh whether or not it’s worth your time to check your equipment every time you rollerblade.
  6. Don’t break in your new brake pad – my brake pad is very touchy when it’s new, reducing my ability to brake properly until it wears down a bit where I can really dig my heel in.
  7. Assume cars will stop at a stop sign – if you’ve ever noticed, most drivers fail to come to a complete stop… it’s called a rolling stop. And while it’s against the law, it usually doesn’t harm anyone. Until the day when you’re rolling up to a car whose driver doesn’t see you, so you both continue to roll right into each other!
  8. Assume drivers see you – one way to get around this is to catch the drivers’ eye when you can. That way you can make sure they have seen you and will wait for you to take your right-of-way.
  9. Blade in dense traffic – ah, again, each of us decide what are acceptable risks. Some would consider rollerblading in busy city streets merely commuting with an edge.
  10. Don’t pay attention – you should always be as aware of your surroundings as you can possibly be when blading in public. In addition, it’s good form to be self-aware when blading, concentrating on a tight core, slightly bent knees and propelling yourself using your butt and thigh muscles.
  11. Don’t take rollerblading lessons – who knew there were rollerblading lessons! Apparently you can learn how to stop quickly and safely in emergencies (I SO could have used this on Friday) and increase your confidence as they teach you basic techniques which you can carry with you, adapting to your own preference and style.
  12. Don’t slow down – when coming up to side streets, intersections, driveways and parking lots, especially when they are partially obstructed by bushes and other hard-to-see-through objects, please slow down! This tip actually precedes tips, “do not assume drivers will stop at stop signs” and “do not assume drivers see you”.

So those are 12 things NOT to do when rollerblading in the city. Can you think of any other really bad rollerblading tips?

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Emmanuel Lopez | Motivatorman July 14, 2008 at 10:04 am

These are great tips Stephanie!

As a big rollerblader myself your tips are all important.

Another fun tip is if you are on a crowded sidewalk and you want people to move just wave your arms like you are going to fall and people part like the red sea!

Works everytime.


Stephanie Miller July 19, 2008 at 9:45 am

LOL Thanks, Emmanuel, I’ll try that! 🙂

john March 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm

toronto is a horrible city for rollerblading.

the sidewalks are too small and there are too many people.

the cars never stop and half the people can’t even drive their cars.

Stephanie Miller March 18, 2009 at 1:52 pm

True dat, John.

I’m holding onto the idea that more people will choose greener transportation in the future, thinning out traffic on the road. I’d rather go up against another blader or cyclist than cars & trucks! 🙂

Marc Lesser September 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I’ve been blading for 20 years now and thought I’d add my two cents:
1) I usually blade in the ‘burbs and take 10-15 mile jaunts on the streets. This requires the ability to stop fast without a rear brake. I’ve never had one. I used to play hockey and I love to ski but I would never rely on a brake because a brake won’t allow you to stop on a dime. Learn to stop hockey style even on a steep hill (start on level ground and graduate to steeper inclines.) Your speed is controlled almost always by slaloming in tight turns. On the steeper grades it’s actually a smooth controlled slide. Always keep your shoulders square to the “fall line” (pardon the pun) of the hill.
2) Always blade against traffic. Many drivers are not paying attention (texting or talking on the cell etc.) Some jurisdictions even mandate that you proceed against traffic (just like a pedestrian). Give the right of way to cyclists.
3) Always blade with your knee in line with the toe of the skate and your hips centered and balanced. Your back should be straight but pitched slightly forward as should your balance at all times. The steeper the grade, the lower and more angled your upper body should be. Never lean back.


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