It’s impossible to go a day in San Francisco without hearing the words ‘tech’ and ‘gentrification’ in the same sentence. And with the tension compounded by outlandish housing costs, a homeless crisis, and fears over major cultural changes being inflicted onto the city, you start to see a culture where it’s easy to find targets that might serve as one of the reasons you feel your hometown has been hijacked by an elite class of outsiders.
Given this, it couldn’t be a more unfortunate time for electronic vehicle enthusiasts to be taking over the streets on large group rides, donning high-tech gear and padded protection as they fly down the streets on motorised skateboards. To the skating community, putting a motor on a board is sacrilege. To some residents, they are the perfect sign of unwanted change.
But BAESk8, the two-year-old group with now over 3,000 members, is a platform that exists both online and in real life, attracting members across all demographics to its cause to get people together and share information, and just ride their vehicles together (though the group definitely skews towards the younger and more tech-minded). They may hand out flashy and smartly-designed cards to potential new members and seem to accept injury as part of the lifestyle (the Facebook page serve as both a portal for sharing rides and also a showcase for bloody wounds), but they claim that only about 20% of the members are involved in the tech industry.
Their real concern isn’t their image however, especially as the group continues to grow at a rapid pace and their relationship with the skate community improves (many of the members also skate, and found their way into the group through wanting to go faster on their manual skateboard). What concerns them is the regulations put on these electric vehicles in cities that see them as a nuisance. San Francisco is like a paradise for them currently – the rules of the road are lax, and they regularly take over the streets in large groups over the weekend without any repercussions. It is the communities budding in other cities around the world where they see lawmakers making blind decisions about how to treat people who use these vehicles not just for fun, but also as a fast and cheap way to commute and get through congested streets.