Great Skate #7 - Ryerson Community Park

Cathy joined me for a peaceful afternoon skate at Ryerson Community Park on February 4th. This is the little rink tucked into the Ryerson University campus. There weren't many skaters out and everyone else was a university student. Two guys were practising their hockey skills, using turned-over benches as goals. A girl practised her figure skating spins while flirting with a guy who looked like he was torn between flirting back and joining the hockey players.

The Ryerson rink is round, and because there were so few skaters on the ice, it was a good opportunity to explore something I've noticed during Great Skate 2012: people always skate in a counterclockwise direction.

I tested this, deliberately skating clockwise. With just Cathy and I doing laps, we weren't getting in anyone's way, and there wasn't any peer pressure to overcome. At first, no problems, although it felt a bit odd. Then after a few minutes I realized that we had somehow turned ourselves around and were now skating counterclockwise.

Why do people skate counter-clockwise?

Here are some theories:

1) Because most skaters are right-handed
Right-handed people are stronger on the right side, so it's easier to push off that leg to the left. Are left-handed skaters more comfortable skating clockwise? (My brother-in-law Bill suggested this one, and I found it in other places too.)

2) Because of the Coriolis Effect
This seemed like a good possibility, until I realized that the earth's rotation makes non-accelerating moving objects on the surface of the earth veer to the right (clockwise) in the northern hemisphere. (Thanks to Wikipedia for refreshing my memory of high school physics.)

3) Because our hearts are on the left side of our bodies
The centrifugal force caused by moving in a counterclockwise direction aids blood flow through our veins. (I found the best explanation of this on the roller derby blog on the website for the Times Union News of upstate New York.)

My slapdash internet research hasn't led to the definitive answer yet - although I'm leaning (to the left!) towards theory #1.

By the way, according to the websites I found, here are some other things that go counter-clockwise:
  • NASCAR drivers
  • most tornados in the northern hemisphere
  • American horse races (after the 1920s)
  • aircraft carrier landing patterns
  • track & field races
  • merry-go-rounds


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