Hoverboards, those meme-friendly scourges of major airlines and wrists everywhere, are getting a much-needed helping hand, courtesy of a band of New York City politicians. The lawmakers want to legalize hoverboards in the Big Apple, which are prohibited from public streets and sidewalks. Currently the NYPD can fine anyone caught gliding around on the non-hovering motorized contraptions in public up to $500.
Standing in front of City Hall today, the politicians announced they would be introducing a bill in both the New York City Council and the state legislature in Albany to exempt hoverboards from being classified as motorized vehicles or "electric personal mobility assistive devices." Instead, they would be granted their own separate category, which would allow the government to create new rules regarding safety and when and where the popular devices could be used.
"This is a bill that tries to keep up with technology," said State Senator Jose Peralta from Queens in a statement. "Because hoverborads and electric unicycles are not cars or motorbikes, my proposal removes these devices from what is considered a ‘motor vehicle' under state law."
The bill would clear up the discrepancy that allows hoverboards to be bought and sold in New York, but prevents them from being legally operated in public. "These are some of the hottest items on store shelves, and the idea here is that if they are sold legally in New York, as they are now, you should also be able to ride them in New York," Peralta said.
While the lawmakers aren't talking many details right now, it's clear that legalization won't mean free rein. "It is our aim to revise the traffic law to allow for the use of hover boards and electric unicycles in limited spaces," said Councilman Andy King from the Bronx. His colleague from Manhattan, Ydanis Rodriguez, agreed. "I remain dubious about legalizing their use on streets and sidewalks," he said.
Hoverboards are a hot item these days, both because of their popularity — during Cyber Monday, about 7,500 hoverboards were sold nationwide, which means one on every 12 seconds — as well as their tendency to literally catch fire and burn houses down. Major airlines have banned them, and the federal government is weighing a more widespread crackdown that is already in effect in the UK. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently investigating 17 hoverboard-related fires in 13 states. Even Mike Tyson didn't stand a chance when he attempted to mount one.
At the press conference, Peralta said the bill could help stop future fires. "They're exploding all over the place. We need to stop that," he said according to the Observer, "and the only way to do that is if we regulate them."
California has its own hoverboard law going into effect this week. The new rule would require helmets, limit speeds to 35 mph, and prohibit anyone under 16 from riding a hoverboard.
"They're exploding all over the place."
Still, after a rough holiday season full of reports of confiscations, explosions, patent fights, class action lawsuits, and broken wrists, hoverboard aficionados are celebrating the New York bill as a way to bring balance to their wobbling industry.
"We are excited for the legalization of personal transportation devices," said Tim Haden, founder of New York City-based Hoodriderz and a self-described hoverboard activist, "and believe that these fun modes of transport also have great potential to reduce pollution as adoption grows."
Look out, Tesla. Hoodriderz is vying to become the world's greenest transportation company.