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Monday, October 20, 2008

City Destroys Famous Skate Spot

posted by on October 20 at 16:36 PM


The “Wall of Death” is a piece of public art under University Bridge. It’s also the nickname for a famous skate spot—it was the nickname for a famous skate spot—under University Bridge. For years skateboarders have been doing tricks on the steeply sloped concrete ramp that faces the “Wall of Death,” a ramp that abuts the small segment of the Burke Gilman Trail that cuts under University Bridge. Skaters would wait for a lull in bike/jogging/walking traffic, and drop in. In the winter, when it’s wet and cold and few people bike, skaters had the spot pretty much to themselves. You can see skateboarders riding the “Wall of Death” here (@ 3:28) and here (@ :36) and here. This blurry screengrab from one of the YouTube videos above shows you what the “Wall of Death” used to look like:


And here’s a picture I took yesterday showing what the “Wall of Death” looks like now…


The city—SDOT? the parks department?—recently tore up a three-foot wide trench in the ramp and set large rocks in concrete. There could only be one reason to do this: to prevent boarders from skating the “Wall of Death.” Here’s a close up of the city’s handiwork. You can see in my “after” image that someone has placed a piece of plywood over the rocks in an effort to make the ramp skateable again.

I put a call in to the city to find out why, after all these years, they felt that they had to destroy this famous skate spot.

In the meantime, skaters, it’s clear the city wants you to find a new hobbies, something else to do, some other way of occupying your time. Perhaps the city would rather you all take up, oh, tagging? There’s a whole fuck of a lot of blank concrete under the University Bridge that you can’t skate anymore, and the place obviously isn’t landmarked or anything—otherwise the city wouldn’t have altered it they way they did—so, hey, if you’re looking for something to do…

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what the fuck is going on with this city!

who can I not vote for because of this?

Posted by drew | October 20, 2008 4:42 PM

WHAT? That's stupid. People have been skating there for thirty years. What a city.

I wonder if this is a project of the same genius at the Parks Department who decided to PAVE the parking lots at west Green Lake with non-permeable asphalt, in defiance of ecology, common sense, and budgetary restraint.

Posted by Fnarf | October 20, 2008 4:42 PM

hey, wasn't this city hip once?

Posted by CM | October 20, 2008 4:43 PM


Posted by breklor | October 20, 2008 4:43 PM

That place isn't just for skaters. Whenever I ride my bike along the burke I make a point of cruising up that slope, nearly petering out at the top, then bombing down back onto the trail.

I'm starting to smell the suck of this city.

Posted by paulus | October 20, 2008 4:44 PM

First they bolted down a hunk of wood. I guess that wasn't doing the trick, so they went and fucked it up some more.

What a truly shitty thing to do. There is probably some lame rationale like "public safety," the same kind of "public safety" that SDOT has been invoking while they've been taking out crosswalks all around town. Of course, people will now jaywalk and find other (perhaps more dangerous) spots to skate, but the city won't be liable.

Spineless cretins.

Posted by kitschnsync | October 20, 2008 4:45 PM

@5 - I know! I saw this the other day riding by, and am saddened that I can no longer bomb up the embankment.

I have some photos of it torn up on my flickr.

RIP - Wall O'Death.

Posted by drunkel | October 20, 2008 4:49 PM



And I was just admiring this new single wheel board this guy had on the Ave today - extendable skateboard with a front and a rear wheel, made it easy to surf curves.



Posted by Will in Seattle | October 20, 2008 4:50 PM

Kent East Hill has the greatest skate park in Washington State!

The cool thing is its at the corner of retirement community, so it's like young and old together!

Posted by John Bailo | October 20, 2008 4:51 PM

Gee, if only there was some way of making our displeasure known.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 20, 2008 4:52 PM

This is sure to drive the skaters up and out from that sequestered little burrow to mix with decent folk. They ought to be putting more of these Roach Motels out there, under every darkened bridge and in every dead end gully.

Posted by elenchos | October 20, 2008 4:54 PM

unless the city is handing out pot to compensate, you can bet that property damage will be the result of "cleaning up" skate spots. tagging is for kids. shredders will destroy shit...

Posted by i have a medium penis | October 20, 2008 5:00 PM


Someone will be hurt, cuz I see a skatepark altered. Altered to make it a double-black diamond, or whateva. If that picture is an obstacle, I see it as more of a challenge. Not for me, oh no, but for certain type-a boarder types is what I mean.

Someone is going to crack a head or neck finding the means to get air over that hedge.

No signs or nothing saying if it has been closed?really?

Posted by Phenics | October 20, 2008 5:04 PM

You know, for the past 3+ years I've driven past The Wall of Death at least five times a week, albeit granted usually in the early morning, but in all that time, I had no idea that was supposed to be a skate park - I guess for the obvious reason that I never saw any skaters there.

Now, again, 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday is probably not considered prime skate-time, but on the other hand I DO see lots of walkers, bikers, & even a fair number of strollers out at that time of the morning, so it occurs to me they occupy the BG and pass under the U. bridge with a great deal more frequency than do skaters, and that rocking off "TWoD" is clearly meant to protect pedestrians, presumably from skateboarders "bombing" down that very slope.

I have no idea what the level of accidents might be in that location, or, even whether there have been any injuries from skater/other collisions there at all. Dan, I think either yourself or someone on your staff should be able to wrangle that information from the City.

Because really, it would make a HUGE difference to me in terms of whether or not I think this was a good or bad move on the part of the City: if there's evidence that public safety has been jeopardized by skaters, and this can be demonstrated, then by all means let's keep things safe.

On the other hand, if there's no such evidence of public harm, and the City has just taken this action based on a perception of potential harm, then yes indeed, that would be a very sucky thing for them to have done.

Posted by COMTE | October 20, 2008 5:07 PM

Maybe someone on the pathway between the ramp and the sculpture got hit by a skater?

Posted by TheBaron | October 20, 2008 5:08 PM

Damn it. First off, I never had a chance to skate this spot.. after being in Seattle 8 years I finally came across it, but I was recouping from an ACL surgery (from snowboarding), and have been patiently waiting to shred this up.

Believe me, skaters are not easily discouraged, I'm sure there's a way to make it skate worthy again. In fact I might just go down there and survey it myself.

Down North is Funky, check us out.

Posted by Down North | October 20, 2008 5:09 PM

Gee Dan. It seems weird that you're upset about this given your Youth Pastor Watch posts lately. Maybe we should all go over to that youth pastor's park where we can still skate! Hooray for youth pastors!

Posted by sepiolida | October 20, 2008 5:10 PM

probably some spandex nazi lawyers threatened a lawsuit. it was kind of a stupid non-design anomaly - skaters & bikers crossing paths doesn't really make much sense.

when i saw the post, i was kinda hoping they'd destroyed the "art". i remember thinking that was crap when it went up - typical bad seattle public art. i'd rather we had more statues of lenin.

Posted by max solomon | October 20, 2008 5:18 PM


Posted by pro-america | October 20, 2008 5:26 PM

Sure hope nobody decides to tag the entire construction site of the Gates Building.

Cause that would be - fair.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 20, 2008 5:27 PM

The spot under I-5 on 40th (just north of the Wall of Death) would be a great spot for a skatepark. Kind of like the new mountain bike track under the freeway in Eastlake.

Posted by DOUG. | October 20, 2008 5:38 PM

We had ramps up top too, the fun police took them away as well.

Thanks seattle. I'm really glad we have put on over half a dozen fundraisers for marginal way this year alone and have to nickel and dime just so we can have a place to skate.

Posted by bobcat | October 20, 2008 5:39 PM

FINALLY the city is listening to the junkie lobby. Now I can smoke meth there without fear of skaters having fun and exercising. Speed party tonight at 2am!! Bring your crowbars!

Posted by jrrrl | October 20, 2008 5:56 PM

The time, money and hours the City put into engineering this mega turd could have been used to create a nice legal ledge somewhere else where kids could skate, get some exercise and have a little fun. Just goes to show that the City of Seattle still hates kids - that never seems to change.

Posted by Time Bomb | October 20, 2008 6:00 PM


I only ride past this on my bike, but this is disturbing. It's a quiet little spot where folks can skateboard. They are usually aware of riders so I've never had a conflict there.

Doesn't SDOT have anything better to do? Like, say:

1) fixing all intersections so the signal sensors detect bicycles
2) putting up signs that say "Bicycles in Roadway. Change Lanes to Pass" instead of painting "sharrows" in the gutters
3) Installing bike racks so bicyclists can park (e.g., Westlake Mall, International District).

A list of things they should be working on is published at

Posted by slugbiker | October 20, 2008 6:01 PM

If they would'a dug that trench about 4' higher up the bank, it actually would'a been fun (up and over, then again on the way down).

That spot offers enough seclusion for sections of those rocks to be chunked out and Quickcreet'ed over in the next few weeks I'm sure.

Posted by Dougsf | October 20, 2008 6:18 PM

How ironic considering a huge piece of the viaduct came crumbling off today. I guess that's not as important as screwing over a somewhat famous local skatespot, that to my knowledge hasn't caused any major public safety problems. Knowing Seattle, they will probably put a public skatepark underneath the most vulnerable part of the viaduct.

Posted by JeffW | October 20, 2008 6:21 PM

JeffW - there already is.

Timebomb and many other people have put countless hours into making a renegade DIY spot into a legal place to skate. For how long, we don't know.

Posted by bobcat | October 20, 2008 6:34 PM

At first I thought you were saying they tore down that horrible art installation. Then I realized the truth, and was disappointed.

Posted by Greg | October 20, 2008 6:36 PM

Whatever you do ... do NOT use quick-set cement to affix a ramp board or two to the new rock wall.

Even if they're dirt cheap at Home Depot. They're open late.


And don't affix a sign saying "Bill Gates GO BACK TO MEDINA!" to one of the bridge supports ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 20, 2008 6:40 PM

A four-pound hand sledge can be carried in an ordinary backpack and, with a hefty chisel (get one with a hand guard, like this: will make swift work of those stones.

Posted by Fnarf | October 20, 2008 6:41 PM
People have been skating there for thirty years.

Who wants to bet that the city has been planning to do that for 30 years?

Posted by keshmeshi | October 20, 2008 7:03 PM

If somebody would like to nominate a more utterly worthless, pointless activity than skateboarding - knock yourself out. Can't wait to hear it.

Posted by Full Pipe | October 20, 2008 7:06 PM

Start advocating tagging and I'm gonna start a petition to have the city cut off your index fingers.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | October 20, 2008 7:15 PM

@33: golf? Softball? Ultimate frisbee? Hoops? Fishing? Lawn bowling? Jogging? Walking the dog? Sitting on a park bench and looking at the water?

Who gives a crap? What does "useful" have to do with anything? It's leisure. If you're going to come out against leisure, you're not going to have too many followers. People do stuff they enjoy doing, it's not a crime. It's called "civilization".

Posted by Fnarf | October 20, 2008 7:35 PM

a skateboarder nearly collided with me there and i fell off my bike it was a dangerous place-- why did anyone think it was a good place for a skate ramp? it feeds directly onto the burke gilman. i have nothing against skaters. this was a dangerous set up and i am glad it is gone

Posted by i am glad | October 20, 2008 8:09 PM

@33 - how about being a spineless anonymous fuck posting on the internet? That's even more worthless than us skaters.

Quikcrete is not the solution, you can't just pour concrete over existing concrete - it will chip off. Holes need to be cut out then refilled. You only have one change to make a good pour so the more people you got to smooth it out the better.

The best way to reclaim that spot is to take the boulders out and then fill those holes in with a nice portland blend.

I kind of want to build a wall blocking something that Fat McMayor Cheezeburger uses.. anyone have his address?

Posted by bobcat | October 20, 2008 8:16 PM

still skatable.

Posted by ZWBush | October 20, 2008 8:45 PM

@31 - best is a cold steel bar (the edged kind) with a sledge - use gloves.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 20, 2008 9:42 PM
People have been skating there for thirty years. What a city.

No, they haven't. That spot hasn't been like that for 30 years. That stretch of the trail hasn't been paved for 30 years and, even after they paved the trail there, the place where the ramp is now was just packed dirt, used as a storage area for the shopping carts of homeless people and graced by the occasional burned-out hulk of an abandoned car, until about 1991.

Also? That was a shitty ramp. There was no room to get enough speed to go up it and there was nothing to do at the bottom -- the trail's only about 10 feed wide down there, so if you tear down the ramp you don't have room to do anything at the bottom. Skaters went there because it looked like it should be a good place to skate, but for practical purposes it was kind of useless. Red square, five blocks away, is a much better spot.

And, finally, those skaters were a fucking hazard. I used to bike commute that stretch of the trail and at least once a month I'd see some dipshit newbie on a K-mart deck nearly slam into a cyclist when he lost control on the slope. Skating is not a precision sport -- even good skaters miss their trick about half the time. Playing ramp games on a slope with no clearance on a busy bike trail was a stupid fucking thing to do and, frankly, I'm glad the city finally got wise and blocked the slope.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled pointless whining.

Posted by Judah | October 20, 2008 10:33 PM

My 65 year old father rides his bike on the Burke-Gilman Trail almost daily. He's gonna be pissed...I have even taking to calling out anyone who doesn't ride up on that bank as they ride by (biking for fun people, not squidded-out roadies who are beyond saving).

But yeah, completely lame. Not surprising though, as Seattle has always hated skateboarders (even the non-bobcat ones).

I'm still gonna go up and around those fucking rocks on my bike though, and it's going to be way more death-defying and shit, as I'm cutting up through the fuckin ivy and then mobbering up and around and probably losing it in the dirt as I come back in...

Posted by alex | October 20, 2008 10:38 PM

I am 53 and because of a back problem (genetic) I do not skate anymore I had to stop when I was 33 1988. I used to skate to work and use my skate board to get around the large warehouse I worked in, I worked for the Attorney general here in Canada looking after criminal, probate and other court files that needed to be sent to the archive in the capitol.
I was fit when I skated, not so much now but I still feel I could get around on a longer board. I skated ever since I moved to Canada in 1966 and it kept me in shape. Many kids are in great shape because they skate. But here you have people blocking something that is clearly a benefit to the health of so many kids and some older skaters. Sure sometimes people get injured but people get injured in all kinds of activities. Being on a skate board is frowned upon by some but it is a form of exercise that you do not have to force on people, they just want to do it.
We constantly get government wanting to encourage activity because we have a nation of overweight people that get most of the media attention. I have hardly ever seen an article on the amazing benefit of being on a skate board but I have constantly seen negative spin. It is a good thing and should be encouraged.
Build public spaces with public art that are made for being used by skaters. This space is under a bridge and was being used now it will end up looking like any other useless space under many bridges gathering garbage in those rocks.
No thought was put into including skaters just eliminating them by making a functional space ugly and useless. This was a small golden moment for city planners and they blew it.

Posted by -B- | October 21, 2008 9:12 AM

Good riddance. I've seen far too many close calls and one nasty collision between perpendicularly moving skaters and cyclists.

Posted by burgin99 | October 21, 2008 9:46 AM

Dude. It's called The Wall of Death. DEATH!!! Consider your curmudgeon-self lucky that all you've seen there (surely from the la-z-boy cockpit of your recumbent bike) are "close calls."

Posted by alex | October 21, 2008 10:09 AM

I've seen nasty collisions between cyclists and pedestrians—get rid of pedestrians! And I've seen really nasty collisions between cyclists and cars—get rid of cars! And I've seen really nasty collisions between cyclists and other cyclists—get rid of cyclists!

There. All better!

Posted by Dan Savage | October 21, 2008 10:10 AM

Dan Savage: are you pro-skateboarder because Sarah Palin is anti-skateboarder?

Whatever the reason: thanks!

In the city of Seattle, skateboarding is illegal on the street, and on the sidewalk. Yes.

The destruction (by the way, it's always worse--the things they do to "skateproof" a spot) of The Wall of Death could serve to show non-skaters what it's like to lose a sucks. I'm sure WAY more bike tires roll up on that thing than skateboard wheels, maybe someone who can vote (most skateboarders are kids: non-voting and therefore without for we few manchildren out there, still riding useless wooden toys) will be angry enough to figure out what to do.

But, the City of Seattle hates skateboarders. This proves it, again. Look how easy it is for them to destroy a skate spot, and how hard it is for skaters to build one. The few thousand dollars (I dunno, how much does it cost to rip that strip out and glue in leftover river rock from some city councilmember's "water feature" or whatever?) that it cost to do this?--bobcat and his friends could've made something rad with that money...

Posted by alex | October 21, 2008 10:28 AM

Dan @ 45:

I couldn't agree with you more. I used to skateboard there for fun, and ride my bike on the Burke Gilman trail for transportation to work. The skateboarders are generally respectful of the people on the BG trail, I can't speak for everyone of course. We didn't want to get hit by some guy racing by anymore than they did. I do have to point out that I have had way more close calls riding my bike on the Burke Gilman trail. Usually from those spandex clad asshole racing cyclists going 30-40 mph and weaving through pedestrians and slower moving cyclists.

Posted by wall of rocks | October 21, 2008 10:32 AM

@ 33-Commenting on blogs, dick!

Posted by randy beaver | October 21, 2008 10:40 AM

#40, Judah, also brings up a good point (his decision that it's "kind of useless," at least): skateboarders have an amazing ability to see what you do not (although it's not too hard to see in this case that you do tricks down INTO the bank), they have a history of turning nothing into something...

I liked the spiky part of the actual "Wall of Death" piece there, but always felt the "wall" section wasn't prominent enough to evoke the daredevil stunt the artists were going for. The best art was the latenight skateboard tricks I saw my friends do down there: Terrible T did a frontside halfcab heelflip into it, I shit you not! Caught clean, probably 1998. True daredevil, indeed.

I predict: much garbage collecting along the top of the rock strip, some clever (and not-so-clever) spraypainted slogans, and a return to shopping carts (gnarly dudes on the street doing drugs hate skateboarders too, being also too loud/fast/young/fun for them). I may or may not contribute to one or more of these blights (including living down there, as my health insurance at work just doubled and rent's going up and tomatos are like hella bro).

But yeah, um, it was indeed a legit skate just had to be a bit gnarlier than the average Judah Sixpack.

Posted by alex | October 21, 2008 10:59 AM

So I don't think the city hates the skateboarders. I totally disagree. I just think skateboarders, bikers should not be on this wall. IT IS DANGEROUS.

I was in a head on collision back in August 2008 with a small girl (maybe 7 years old). I was riding my bike west along the trail. If you approach the wall, you will see that the trees obstruct the wall and you have no idea if anyone is on the wall. Without any notice this girl came flying off the wall and collided head on with me. Luckily she was wearing a helmet. She walked away with minor cuts and bruises. I had bruised ribs and a sore back for over a month after the collision. Imagine if I had killed her and it could have totally been possible.

So I would hope you all realize that the wall of death is not the best place to Skate and ride bikes on. Sooner or later, the name of the wall would really mean THE WALL OF DEATH due to an incident where someone would be killed.

I am glad to see this fixed.

Posted by Mike | October 21, 2008 11:49 AM

OH NOES! Skaters cut off bikers!!!! PANICS!!!!11

Good thing I've never been hit by a biker while walking or crossing a street. You bikers really are a shining beacon of safety. Point one finger at us and you have 3 pointing back a yourselves.

The reason Wall of Deaths demise bummed me out is that we don't exactly have many places to skate in the rain. Yes, if you haven't noticed it rains here a little bit. The closing of the W.O.D. is just going to push people back into the Fun Curbs under Red Square and the Heated Garage around the corner.

Posted by bobcat | October 21, 2008 1:08 PM

Wow NapoleonXIV (34). What an ntelligent post.

Posted by joel | October 21, 2008 1:37 PM
I've seen nasty collisions between cyclists and pedestrians—get rid of pedestrians! And I've seen really nasty collisions between cyclists and cars—get rid of cars! And I've seen really nasty collisions between cyclists and other cyclists—get rid of cyclists!

There. All better!

Pit bulls.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 21, 2008 2:40 PM

Great article! Personally, I am thinking a SIGN could handle all the problems here. One on each side. I roll at 15mph and keep my eyes open. You spandex dudes going 30 ain't helping anyone. There are miles of the trail to speed FAST through. This part should be taken slowly regardless.

And I loved pedaling fast up that thing and flying down. Boo on concrete obstruction. A couple rocks have ALWAYS stopped skaters....yeaaaaah. Dicks.

Posted by steve rock | October 21, 2008 4:13 PM


Seriously. The city has generously installed a base for a much more exciting skating spot! Mix gravel with concrete and fill the voids between the stones. Cover up the surface with plain concrete to make a smooth speed bump that allows skaters to pump more speed on the way up and get good air on the way down!


Posted by Richard | October 23, 2008 11:07 PM
Posted by Scott Shinn | October 24, 2008 8:10 AM

fight stupidity with concrete!.... smooth out the front side with QUIKCRETE...

so local government that you're not going to stand for their hypocracy

Posted by CrankyRider | October 24, 2008 11:47 AM

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