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Lawmakers in New York and California are set to establish legal limits for the use of so-called hoverboards, the battery-powered wheeled gadgets many kids got as gifts this holiday season. The devices don't fit under existing laws governing things like electric bikes or skateboards, but classifying them as motor vehicles (as they currently are in New York) doesn't help either.
California has gotten ahead of the issue. A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October and due to take effect on Jan. 1 allows hoverboards to be ridden at up to 15 mph in bike lanes on smaller streets — as long as the rider is 16 or over. Younger hoverboarders will have to stay on the driveway. Sidewalk use will be up to cities and counties to regulate on their own.
"You're going to be restricted by local ordinance as to where you can go and not go," Chris Cochran, with the California Office of Traffic Safety, told NBC Bay Area. "The state law allows it to be on local roadways, but your local city or county may restrict which roadways or type of roadways."
New York has a little further to go. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton ridiculed the devices at a press conference on Tuesday, saying "I think anybody who rides these things is out of their minds."
"We live in an extraordinarily crowded city. We have a hard enough time walking down the street, let alone hovering down," he said.
Nevertheless, legislation has been proposed by State Sen. Jose Peralta and others, who in a separate press conference on Tuesday suggested it was a matter of safety to have the devices recognized legally in New York City and regulated.
The risk of bowling into pedestrians or veering into traffic is real enough, but the tendency of knockoff hoverboards to burst into flame was also addressed. Consumers must be wary of these poorly constructed off-brand devices, Peralta warned.