Hoverboards: New Traffic for Our Sidewalks

The Hoverboard, Swagway, Swegway, or whatever you call them gained an unprecedented amount of publicity and traction in 2015.  As with any product on the market, they come in many colors, shapes, and sizes, but they all follow the same basic formula.  Essentially the Hoverboard is a Segway, but without the pesky handlebars getting in the way that are designed to keep you safe and your wrists unbroken.  Whether they are Hoverboards, Swagways, or Swegways, all are some variation on a self balancing two wheel board used for human transport.  While the three don’t actually hover as the name would imply, the name Hoverboard sounds much more appealing than Self-Balancing Two-Wheel-Board.  Most Hoverboards have a top speed of 14 mph, and a maximum tilt of 15 degrees, and are controlled by tilting the feet forward to control the direction and speed of travel.

Over the holidays, the Hoverboard allegedly was one of the most popular holiday gifts, as well as one of the most common causes of injury; falls often resulted in broken bones or twisted wrists.  Many stores ran out of the popular device within hours of opening, and many hospital ERs filled up the following day.

Testing balance on the hoverboard

Testing balance on the hoverboard

Many say that hoverboards explode, which is untrue, but they do spontaneously combust.  This doesn’t apply to all Hoverboards though, because this flammable feature is exclusive to a easy to discern type of Hoverboard.  A very predictable trend is for now correct, as only Chinese knockoff Hoverboards are the ones going up in smoke.  The source of the fire is in the poor quality lithium batteries that normally come with off brand products.  Lithium batteries can’t be overcharged, so when the safeguard to stop charging breaks, they can catch fire.

As they say, prevention is the best cure to keeping your Hoverboard from catching fire, and it’s easy to sniff out the good from the bad.  The most obvious marking of a wolf in Hoverboard’s clothing is the price.  Normally, these bad boys can run about $250-400 bucks, so anything cheaper than that can be safely disregarded.  Now, if the seller decides to overcharge their counterfeit, and someone buys it, leaving that person with something that looks like a perfectly fine hoverboard.  Bad Hoverboards can easily be spotted by checking the packaging.  A certified  battery should have a UL or ETL emblem on the product, package, or user’s manual which means it passed safety inspections.  Of course, there are some very sketchy manufacturers who add fake emblems to the box, but crackdowns on the brands being sold have significantly shrunk this number.

For some, the Hoverboard fad has not caught on, but the ban of Hoverboards certainly has.  Over 30 college campuses have banned the use of Hoverboards as a result of safety concerns, that include everything from ER-related injuries to fires.  Hoverboard bans aren’t only restricted to colleges though, as cities, such as New York and London have also issued a ban on Hoverboards; New York cites the fact that that Hoverboard is a motorized vehicle that can’t be registered as support for this ban.  The London ban, on the other hand points to the centuries old law that no livestock or carriages are allowed on sidewalks, but are too unsafe to use on public roads.  Not only have Hoverboards been banned from the streets, but they have also been banned in the air.  Considering the potential flammability of Hoverboards, it’s no surprise that they’ve been banned.

Realistically though, the general verdict on Hoverboards is that Hoverboards are fun, and thankfully field reporter Matthew Eng ‘18 was able to try one for himself.  After several hours of testing, this general verdict is true.  If you are planning to fork out $250 for one of these Hoverboards, you want to have someone there to spot you, because contrary to popular belief, trying to balance on a two wheel board with no handlebars is a good way to turn a skull into a cracked creme egg.  However, all it takes is 20 minutes use before the average person can zoom around at a top speed of fast walking pace.  There really aren’t any secrets to riding a Hoverboard.  Much like learning to ride a bike, you get it once you get it.

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