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Police crackdown on hoverboard users

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If you’ve just shelled out several hundred pounds on a hoverboard or swegway, there’s bad news: the police say it’s illegal to use them on the road or pavement.

Swegway - self-balancing scooter

"Urban Wheel Flo Board" by Ben Larcey is licenced under CC BY 2.0

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They’re the hot new thing when it comes to personal transportation.

But police are threatening to nip the new hoverboard trend in the bud: and they are using a 180-year-law to do so.

New announcement

Over recent weeks, Britain’s pavements and parks have seen the appearance of more and more people propelling themselves around on odd-looking one- and two-wheeled platforms.

Known also as swegways, self-balancing scooters and electric unicycles, these devices are electrically powered and can be controlled and steered by subtle changes in body position.

They can cost anything from a few hundred pounds to well over £1,000.

But authorities have now announced that it is against the law to ride them on pavements or public roads.

Outdated law?

According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), section 72 of the Highway Act of 1835 bans the use of vehicles on the pavement in England and Wales.

These hoverboards are classed by the Department for Transport (DfT) as a type of vehicle, and in Scotland, the Roads Act of 1984 has a similar provision.

As far as using them on the road is concerned, only motorised vehicles which are approved, licensed and registered are allowed on the street, which again rules out hoverboards.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said:

We would remind the public that it is an offence to wilfully ride on the footway and, where necessary, officers will speak to people using these devices advising them of the rules.

Permission needed

Swegway on grass

Urban Wheel Flo Board by Ben Larcey is licenced under CC BY 2.0

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In fact, the only place it is legal to use your hoverboard is on private property.

The DfT says: “You can only ride an unregistered self-balancing scooter on land which is private property and with the landowner's permission.

“The Department for Transport would advise that appropriate safety clothing should be worn at all times.”

So will you get into trouble if you go for a spin on your hoverboard on your local high street?

Well that depends on how well the authorities in your area know the relevant legislation.

A couple of hoverboard fans in London said this week they had managed to persuade a female police officer to try out their device – she was clearly unaware that by doing so, she was breaking the law.



If the threat of being arrested isn’t worrying enough, there are also suggestions that some makes of hoverboard could present a fire risk when they are being recharged.

The London Fire Brigade has just warned owners of potential dangers following two blazes in the capital this month.

Plug problems

Charlie Pugsley, head of fire investigation at the Brigade, said:

The cause of both fires is still under investigation whilst the devices are tested at our lab.

But, as both incidents involved personal transporters that were charging at the time of the fire, we'd urge people to especially keep an eye on their devices whilst they are on charge.

The Brigade also says that boards should be left unplugged when unattended.

Meanwhile, BBC’s Watchdog programme has raised concerns that some makes of hoverboards are being supplied with non-standard plugs.

In some cases, they did not contain fuses – and this could increase the risk of the plugs overheating and catching fire.

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