University of California Announces Hoverboard Restriction

A student rides a hoverboard near Shields Library.
A student rides a hoverboard near Shields Library during winter quarter. (Cody Kitaura/UC Davis)

While hoverboards may already have gone the way of Furby, Tickle Me Elmo and other holiday gift fads, it’s now even less likely they’ll show up around campus.

A new UC-wide policy says you can’t have one of the self-balancing, battery-operated boards on any campus or at any medical center, unless the board is certified as safe by an independent testing laboratory, such as UL. As of today, UL had approved only a handful.

Anyone with a noncertified hoverboard has until June 30 to remove it from campus.

The UC Davis Committee on Bicycle Programs will meet this week to consider adding the policy to the campus’s traffic and parking code to make the new rule easier to enforce.

In 2015, social media lit up with videos of hoverboards in flames — and the boards became synonymous with fire risk. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Division said consumers reported 52 hoverboard-related fires in 24 states from December to February.

UC Davis already prohibits motorized skateboards, but that policy was written even before the true science-fiction hoverboards of Back to the Future II had been dreamed up — the old policy referred to noisy, gasoline-engine-powered boards, said David Takemoto-Weerts, coordinator of the Bicycle Program.

He said this isn’t the first time new technology didn’t fit into existing regulations. When the Segway rose to popularity in the early 2000s, some wondered if it were only a matter of time before they’d become ubiquitous. They could reach speeds of 12 miles per hour, which many thought was too fast for the sidewalks where they were ridden, Takemoto-Weerts said.

To complicate things further, Virginia Hinshaw, who was provost and executive vice chancellor at the time, was known for riding a Segway around campus and even through hallways and to meetings in Mrak Hall.

The campus decided to wait and see whether regulation was needed, and, like the hoverboard, the trend faded away.

Takemoto-Weerts said he hasn’t seen a hoverboard on campus since fall quarter, when he saw only a couple.

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