For some people, in-line skates put thrill into commuting


  • Before setting out for your first commute on in-line skates, it's important to have the basics mastered. Practicing moving, stopping and turning will give you the confidence to take your skates to the streets.
  • Pay attention to what is going on in front of you. Scan the area for pedestrians stepping off curbs or cars making a turn in front of you. Most hazardous situations on a city skate can be avoided if you stay alert and predict the likelihood of their occurrence.
  • Plan your skate. If you are new to skating outdoors or on your commute route, it is best to bike or walk the route before skating it. Being aware of challenging surfaces like hills, gravel and bricks will allow you to adjust your technique or path accordingly.
  • Learn to control your speed. It's extremely important to know how to manage your speed to stay in control and able to come to a complete stop. Practicing this will allow you to avoid potentially dangerous situations and feel comfortable and confident on your commute.

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You might have noticed Thomas Lodato zip past you atop his Xsjado skates, en route to his office at Georgia Tech, or Carson Starnes heading to class or just cruising the city.

Weather permitting, in-line skates are the Grant Park residents’ preferred mode of transportation. More than bicycling. More than the car or public transit.

“If it isn’t raining, I skate to wherever I’m going,” said Starnes, a 21-year-old junior at Georgia State University.

Lodato and Starnes are among nearly half a million American commuters who travel less than 5 miles to work or school and skate to get there.

In-line skating as an emerging mode of transportation in urban America dates back nearly 15 years, when AAA first noted the trend fueled by the spread of pavement and advances in skate design.

Not that long ago, college students like Starnes who skated to class might have been considered unusual, even eccentric, said Tom Hyser, product marketing manager at Rollerblade, maker of in-line skates.

“Not so much anymore,” he said.

Hyser, who grew up in Atlanta skating to class at the Atlanta College of Art (now the Savannah College of Art and Design), said that just in the past 16 months, in-line skating, fueled by video demonstrations saturating the Internet, has taken off here and in states like New York and California.

“All you really need is a backpack and helmet and you’re off,” he said. “You can skate anywhere. There are a lot more options than even a bike because you can quickly change directions, pop up on a sidewalk and then back into the street.”

Fans of in-line skating say the activity not only provides an opportunity to get some exercise during commutes, but it is also another alternative to walking or biking that saves money and reduces one’s carbon footprint.

Starnes, who’s been a fan of in-line skating for 14 years, skates from his home in Grant Park to Georgia State, a distance of about 1 1/2 miles each way, three or four times a week.

“Whenever it’s not raining,” he said.

Lodato, a 29-year-old researcher and Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech, remembers the first pair of in-line skates his parents purchased for him 20 years ago.

“They were black and neon purple,” he said.

Once a friend showed him how to “grind,” Lodato said he was in love, taken by the motion and one’s ability to jump, move side to side and backward and forward and in small spaces.

Since moving here from his native New Jersey six years ago, Lodato said Atlanta's uneven surface streets and aggressive drivers and hot summer temperatures have made commuting on skates much more difficult, but there's no place he'd rather be than atop his skates.

“If I could skate every day, I would,” he said. “It just doesn’t always fit into my day, especially when I have meetings with people and can’t show up at the office sweaty.”

Lodato’s commute to Tech is 6.5 miles each way and takes about 40 minutes.

“I put a podcast on and sometimes take an hour when I want to enjoy myself,” he said. “It’s great to see people picking it back up. Every time I see someone, I stop to talk. There is an immediate camaraderie. Shy but when I have skates on, I know I have a conversation.”

Those conversations usually take place along the Atlanta Beltline, he said, where he’s seeing more and more people commuting on in-line skates.

“I can’t say how many people commute, but I would imagine if you went down to Georgia State, you’d see quite a few of them,” said Bob Orlowski, co-owner of Skate Escape, which sells and rents all types of skates.

Orlowski said he’s been selling skates for 35 years in Atlanta.

“People still skate every day,” he said.

Lodato estimates that he owns about six pairs of in-line skates but uses primarily uses his Xsjado — pronounced shadow — because their unique design allows him to use them with his shoes still on, making his commute easier.

“They are a 20-year obsession,” he said. “It’s fun mode of transportation and I like it in all capacities, for the sheer enjoyment, for exercise, for exploring the way a city is built.”

When he isn’t commuting to work or running errands, he said, he straps them on and hits the pavement, whizzing back and forth around his Grant Park neighborhood.

Once while skating down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Lodato said people started yelling and cheering him on.

“You don’t usually get that when you run,” he said. “People have very strong reactions to it. Either you love it or hate it. I just happen to love it.”