Plenty of New Yorkers will have woken up on Christmas morning and discovered a motorized two-wheeler, otherwise known as a "hoverboard," underneath their festive tree. The electric curiosities are currently illegal to ride in the city, but a small group of politicians are fighting to lift the ban with an amended set of traffic laws. New York State Senator Jose Peralta held a news conference yesterday with Assembleyman David Weprin and council members Andy King and Ydanis Rodriguez; they're pushing forward two bills which, if passed by the New York Senate and Assembly, could make the devices legal on public roads and sidewalks.
The Senate bill seeks to change two sections of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which categorises hoverboards as a "motor vehicle." Under this definition, riders can't use them unless they're registered -- which means they're illegal, because at the moment it's impossible to register a hoverboard with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The proposed bill would exempt the two-wheelers from this category and, by extension, the required registration, giving lawmakers the chance to introduce new, tailored rules.
"We want to make sure that they are safe while they're riding them. Technically we know that they are illegal but they're still being sold across America as well as in the state of New York," King said according to the Observer. "We want to make sure that if anyone is riding them, that they're not violating the law."
The four politicians face an uphill battle though. Hoverboards have earned a reputation as a fire hazard, forcing Amazon and other online retailers to pull them from their virtual store shelves. The situation is so bad that Saturday Night Live took notice and created a wonderfully hilarious skit about it. There's no question that the riding experience is novel though -- that's why they're so popular at the moment. (The videos of people inevitably falling over has also fuelled the public's intrigue.)
For the foreseeable future, people will continue to buy and ride hoverboards, which is why, the new bills' creators argue, it's so important to amend existing legislation. Instead of fining everyone that takes the device for a quick test-spin, it's better to introduce new rules that makes them safer for the rider and those around them. That's the argument, anyway. "They're exploding all over the place. We need to stop that," Peralta said. "The only way to do that is if we regulate them."