Councilman Rafael Espinal: NYC should rethink ban on self-balancing boards known as ‘hoverboards’

The boards are lumped under a law that includes e-bikes and go-karts.

The city’s looking to hit the brakes on the electric-powered balance boards that have hit the streets over the last few months, but one City Councilman said he’d like New York to rethink that policy.

The NYPD backed up the warning that the 26th Precinct tweeted Wednesday that the electric powered rides that are popular among kids and teens, are illegal since they aren’t registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. The state law also applies to electric bikes, aka e-bikes, that are on the streets.

City Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick) said the balance boards, which are nicknamed “hoverboards” even though they don’t levitate, have been a major annoyance for some residents, but doesn’t think it warrants police action.

“These boards haven’t caused any problem that I know off,” said Espinal, who is the chair of the Council’s consumer affairs committee. “Skateboards aren’t illegal, Rollerblades aren’t illegal. Why shouldn’t these things be the same?”

Although the police didn’t have specific data on fines issued to the electric balance board users, it did issue 685 summonses and made 14 arrests and 96 seizures “specifically for e-bike violations” between July 6 and October 25.

Espinal said it was unfair to lump the boards, which cost as much as $400 online, with the e-bikes since the fastest that a balance board can go is 10 mph, compared to 25 mph with the bikes. He said he’s exploring the idea of a bill that would differentiate the boards from other, more dangerous, vehicles.

“To illegalize it would be ridiculous,” he said.

(With Felipe De La Hoz)

Ivan Pereira