Nanny State of the Week: NYC bans hoverboards

HoverBoardThe future is here, but New York City nannies won’t have it.

The hoverboard — a mash-up between a razor scooter and a Segway, sans handles – is a self-balancing two-wheeled personal transportation device, which has made a splash with kids and seems poised to be a huge seller this holiday season.

Sure, they might not look exactly like the hoverboards we were promised in a “Back To The Future” view of life in 2015, but the movie got the year right.

In New York City, though, zipping down the sidewalk on a hoverboard could get you in trouble. Someone caught riding a hoverboard in public could be subject to a $200 fine, the New York Daily News reported last week. An NYPD spokesman told Time magazine hoverboards are illegal on NYC sidewalks because they are motor vehicles that can’t be registered.

HoverBoard1In the Nanny State, of course, you can only have things the government knows how to register and license. When new products come along — so new they dont’ exist within a previous level of government regulation, classification or control — they simply cannot be.

Innovation be damned. The future be damned. But sometimes the Nanny State gets tangled in its own regulations.

For example, one section of the New York City code seems to suggest the handlebar-less scooters are actually 100 percent legal in the city.

The New York Daily News says Code 19-176.2 defines “motorized scooters” as being “any two-wheeled device that has handlebars.” It further explains “the term ‘motorized scooter’ shall not include electric powered devices not capable of exceeding fifteen miles per hour.”

The city requires that all motorized scooters be licensed with City Hall but, based on those definitions, hoverboards don’t fit.

Still, it might not be a great idea to get into a legal debate with the NYPD, as officers are writing tickets for hoverboarding in public. The better strategy would be for the city to say a ban on hoverboards is pointless, wasteful and just silly.

Many retailers seem to believe — or at least hope — that will happen. Or they think people will just do what they’ve always done and ignore pointless, silly bans on innocuous activities.

At The Board Store on W. 8th St., owner Jay Isaac told the New York Post that he’s already sold 3,000 hoverboards (at $500 a pop) in just a month of doing business. Macy’s famous Manhattan flagship store gives more than 20 feet of retail space to the futuristic personal transport machines, the paper reported.

But in this fight of government nannies versus the businesses, people and kids of New York City, the government isn’t about to back down.

Rapper Wiz Khalifa and his entourage on hoverboards in LA.Photo: Splash News

Rapper Wiz Khalifa and his entourage on hoverboards in LA.Photo: Splash News

One member of City Council, Andy King, D-Bronx, wants to propose a bill outlawing hoverboards.

“People won’t be walking or exercising their lungs” if hoverboards are “seen as a new form of transportation,” he told the Post.

Don’t even bother asking what he thinks about the cars, trucks, taxis, subways, city buses, horse-drawn carriages, elevators, escalators, airplanes, trains, boats, helicopters and ferries that move people all over New York City every single day.

In King’s ideal city, everyone walks and, probably, has to license their feet with City Hall.


About the author: Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed list-icle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87.

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