Hundreds of Skateboarders ‘Bomb’ Down Broadway, With Less Police Conflict Than in the Past

Skateboarders ride down Broadway past 97th Street. Matthew Mendez is the one with his arms in the air. See full video below.

By A. Campbell

The energy was high as hundreds of skateboarders gathered at the corner of 116th Street and Riverside Drive late Saturday morning preparing to compete in “Broadway Bomb”, an annual unsanctioned skateboard and longboard race that takes place each year on the third Saturday of October. The crisp air and strong sunshine provided just the right conditions for a group ride down the length of Manhattan. About 15 minutes ahead of take-off, the event organizer, James Soladay, used a megaphone to issue repeated reminders for enthusiastic skateboarders to stay clear of the road and allow cars and pedestrians to pass.

With his history as a devoted, top-ranking competitor in the event, Soladay shared that Broadway Bomb’s co-founder, Ian Nichols, had requested his help taking over organizational efforts a few years ago when Nichols began to endure significant pressure from the state and the NYPD. “He was getting worried about the legal repercussions of having fun on skateboards,” Soladay jokingly remarked.

James Soladay provides instruction to the crowd of skaters gathered at 116th and Riverside Drive.

In 2012, the New York Supreme Court granted a restraining order on behalf of the state in an attempt to shut down the event and prevent Nichols from organizing further. Afterwards, Nichols publicly announced that he was no longer involved with Broadway Bomb. In October 2013, the NYPD turned out in a show of force, stringing up nets along Broadway and arresting participants, saying that the event was illegal because an appropriate permit had not been granted.

Nevertheless, the event has remained popular. Perhaps even more so, in spite of the efforts on behalf of the state and law enforcement to shut down what many participants describe as a lively and relatively brief annual gathering. “Even though it’s an outlaw race, we have people from California, from China, from Canada, from all over the country that come to this event,” Soladay said. “Many of them are not here at the beginning of the race. They wait along Broadway for the race to go by and they jump in.” Soladay estimated that only about a third of the competitors were present at the starting line.

Born and raised on the Upper West Side, Justin Slager, 19, prepared to take part in the race for the first time since 2015. Asked what he thought was the most difficult obstacle, he immediately responded, “Times Square. Times Square one hundred and ten percent. Even riding on a regular day is difficult,” Slager said. “Everyone walks in the bike path because there are just so many people.”

Starting at exactly noon, participants raced up the short hill between Riverside Drive and Broadway, turned the corner, and began zipping south along the 8-mile route toward the finish line located at the iconic Wall Street “Charging Bull”. The rules of Broadway Bomb are simple: everyone must wear a helmet and no “skitching” – holding onto the back of a moving vehicle – is allowed. First prize includes $250, a chance at sponsorship, and bragging rights. This year, Keifer Dixon took first prize in the men’s category and Emily Williams placed first in the women’s category.

Keifer Dixon and Emily Williams.

This year, the police officers along the route were much more supportive, Soladay noted after the race. The police even offered an escort through midtown and blocked traffic to help keep both the skaters and the community safe. Soladay posited that if city authorities would be willing to approve the event and provide a permit, it could be incredibly beneficial for the local economy. “If they made this a legal event a lot of hotel rooms would be booked, a lot of bagels and coffee would be sold. It only takes 30 minutes to do the entire event.”

Here’s what the scene looked like coming through the intersection of 97th and Broadway.

The West Side Rag reached out to the NYPD’s 20th Precinct for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

NEWS | 13 comments | permalink
    1. J says:

      Of course zero interest in bus riders who are impacted when streets are blocked…

      • Ryan says:

        I agree, we need to remove all those vehicles that idle in the bus lanes. Cops. TLC cars. Delivery vans. Private vehicles.

        Not to mention the walls of private cars we have on both sites of our beautiful tree-lined streets. Think, 2 extra lanes, on EVERY street. Imagine how quickly we could move our buses then!

      • MQue says:

        You must be fun at parties

    2. wombatNYC says:

      Love this !

    3. stevieboy says:

      This is awesome! I wish I was a little younger and I would be out there with them.

      And to all the complainers….”get over it!!”

    4. Wes Stephens says:

      I was walking across Broadway at 58 Street around 1230 on Saturday when a rush of scateboarders came by. This was so dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists and those on scateboards. There has to be a better way than what I saw.

      • Free says:

        If the city gave us a damn permit yeah. Since they won’t people just have to deal. It’s not as dangerous as you make it out to be. In the 5 years I’ve been going to the bomb I’ve never heard of anyone seriously injured.

    5. your_neighbor says:

      A great event.
      Sorry I missed it, I’m not a skateboarder but must have been fun to watch.

      We block off half the city for days for other events but won’t give these guys a permit for an hour or two?
      These guys probably will hang around after the event spending money and won’t be jumping in their cars heading back to the suburbs as soon as the event is over like many of the marathoners.

    6. NSK says:

      I happened to see this event outside my window at 87th & Broadway, and both my 4-year-old and I were mesmerized. It was a better use of streetspace on Broadway than the following day’s socks-and-arepas sale.

    7. Sarah says:

      Why *don’t* they get this permitted? Maybe I missed something?

      Have to say those two kids look pretty badass.

    8. Cookie M says:

      Tired of being endangered by a different type of stupid vehicle every other day. How about permits..recovering from one broken foot, not looking for another. And yes, I am no fun at parties.

    9. Howard Weinberg says:

      Thanks — now I know why I waited through at least three stoplight changes at 104th and Broadway before taking a chance to cross Broadway amid a torrent of skateboarders. A woman with a walker was crossing toward the center and I thought I could do it. A bit scary. Why no advance notice?