‘Hoverboards’ Are Illegal in NYC … or Are They?

Attention “hoverboard” owners: Your day of reckoning has arrived — at least if you live in New York City. That’s because the New York Police Department sent out a tweet letting residents know that hoverboards are, in fact, illegal in the five boroughs. And getting busted while riding one could catch you a $500 fine.

But wait just a minute before you toss your board in the trash: Shortly after that tweet appeared, Captain Gil Morales of the NYPD’s 26th Precinct, in Harlem, deleted it. When I reached out to police headquarters, I was told by a police spokesperson that the tweet was deleted because it was erroneous — but the press officer couldn’t comment beyond that.

Where’s my jet pack?

Before I go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: The two-wheeled electric balance boards we call hoverboards are not, in fact, hoverboards. In my book, a hoverboard is what Marty McFly rode in Back to the Future: Part II. So can we please stop calling them hoverboards?

Whatever we do call them, the boards were — according to the original tweet — considered illegal under section 19-176.2 of the city’s legal code. Sure enough, the code says that operating an electric scooter that can’t be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles can get you a $500 fine as well as result in the scooter being impounded.

But according to the fine print, the law excludes, “electric-powered devices not capable of exceeding fifteen miles per hour or ‘electric personal assistive mobility devices’ — defined as self-balancing, two non-tandem wheeled devices designed to transport one person by means of an electric propulsion system.”

That would seem to indicate that the self-balancing scooters — erroneously called hoverboards — are totally legal.

Still, Gothamist says it spoke to the New York Department of Transportation, which told the site that the boards are illegal. Tech Insider also says that an NYPD spokesperson confirmed that the electric boards are illegal.

Legal question

So are they illegal or not?

Well, it’s hard to tell. The NYPD spokesperson I spoke with said only that the tweet was erroneous, but didn’t specifically say that the boards were legal. But the law seems to indicate that they are.

The truth is, it’s likely that the city is still trying to figure out how to treat these gadgets, just like we’re still trying to figure out what to call them.

For now, NYCers, ride at your own risk.

If they are illegal though, the real downer would be that we won’t be able to witness a 35-year-old man in a business suite who thinks he looks supercool totally eat it when he accidentally rides his scooter over a pothole.

To miss that, dear readers, would be a true tragedy.

Via: Gothamist, Tech Insider

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+.

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