OGDEN -- For Aaron Wilcox and his friends, it's a matter of getting from Point A to Point B. For the city of Ogden, it's an issue of following the law.
Wilcox, 21, and a couple of his friends were heading home one evening on their longboards -- a sort of skateboard on steroids -- riding in the bike lane, when a police officer in a vehicle pulled up behind them.
"He used his intercom to tell us to 'Get off the road, or we're going to cite you,' " Wilcox said.
It was the latest in a string of encounters Wilcox and his friends say they've had with law enforcement over the longboarders' preferred method of transportation.
"We've had quite a few instances where police officers have told us to get off the road," he said.
A longboard is a much longer, often wider, version of a skateboard. It's primarily used for transportation and cruising along on streets -- not for the same sorts of tricks and jumps for which skateboards are famous -- or infamous.
"It's so different from skateboarding, grinding on rails and stuff," Wilcox said. "This is strictly transportation."
These Ogden longboarders believe their mode of transportation has more in common with bicycles than skateboards and that they should be treated as such.
One advantage to a longboard, Wilcox said, is that you have better road and traffic vision, because you can swivel your neck and torso around to get a 360-degree view of your surroundings.
"We can be more aware than bicyclists," he said. "Cyclists have more control, we've been told, but it's easier and safer for us to be able to look around. And we have full control -- stopping and turning capabilities."
However, as far as Ogden city is concerned, longboards are skateboards.
"Right now, the ordinance says you can't ride a skateboard in the street unless you're crossing at a crosswalk," said Ogden City Attorney Gary Williams.
In addition, there are several areas in downtown Ogden where skateboards aren't permitted on the sidewalks, either, because of heavy pedestrian traffic, Williams said.
Wilcox and his friends are hoping to alter that city ordinance. On Sunday, Wilcox started a petition to ask the city of Ogden to "change bicycle laws to include longboards."
So far, Wilcox said, he has collected about 20 signatures. "My goal is to get 100 signatures and present the petition to Ogden city to amend the bicycle law."
Explaining his reasoning for the petition, Wilcox writes that he and others are "tired of being harassed by the Ogden Police for using our longboards. We are not damaging property, obscuring traffic any more than a cyclist does, and can have just as much control and actually more awareness of the road in the front AND back of us."
John Harvey, deputy director of administration for the Ogden Police Department, said longboarding hasn't really been on his radar, but then, "We try to have our guys deal with crime."
However, he also points out that the law's the law, and police will enforce whatever is on the books.
"A lot of guys don't care for rules -- they think of them more as suggestions," Harvey said. "And if they're violating the law, I guess they would think our enforcement of the law is hassling."
Wilcox touts the longboard as being cheaper than a bicycle, good exercise and better for the environment than a motor vehicle. "It's an awesome way to just get around. We're not causing harm, we're not damaging property."
As for the petition, Williams said the longboarders are certainly going about it the right way, if they want to change the law.
"It seems to make sense that they would ask, 'How can we show longboards are as safe as bicycles on the street?' Because it really comes down to a safety issue."
Harvey agrees. Safety is what concerns him most.
"I spoke with one of our lieutenants about this issue, and he said we received some complaints about skateboarders riding in the street, hooking onto the back of cars and just generally disobeying traffic regulations," he wrote in a later email to the Standard-Examiner.
In response to those complaints, Harvey explained that police officers "counseled with the skateboarders and even issued a few citations to the more egregious violators."
There have also been problems with skateboarders riding in the middle of Ogden streets late at night, Harvey said.
"Fortunately, nobody has been killed so far," he wrote. "Hopefully, our increased enforcement will help keep people safe."
Told the longboarders are trying to change the law to classify a longboard the same as a bicycle -- rather than a skateboard -- Harvey said, "Good luck with that."
Excerpts of comments on the petition:
* "... I obey traffic laws, I'm never gonna get to live my life right if I don't get to longboard. I want to be an example of safety and help show the world that automobiles aren't the only form of transportation in Utah. I always wear my helmet and I pay my taxes, cops don't have to yell at me for living my life. I do my part in society, they don't have to take away my freedoms."
-- Aaron Kelly, Ogden
* "Everyone should have an equal amount of freedom to choose their personal transportation ways. For some, long boarding is a quick, easy and emission-free way to get to where you need to be in Ogden. Don't take away the rights to ride!"
-- Caitlin Caouette, Ogden
* "Longboarding is a mode of transportation to thousands of people over the state of Utah. It is not only a very safe sport but also an alternative mode of transportation and reduces the bad air quality from all the cars in Utah. If you are smart on a longboard, there is no difference between a longboard and a bike on the road."
-- Jacob Booth, Ogden
* "I'm a long boarder myself and have been harassed many times where there is no need for it."
-- Anthony Engel, Ogden