Spinning their wheels?

Hoverboards/Segways are newest craze, but not legal in every city

Gianna Parkinson, 10, of West New York wanted a hoverboard – a two-wheel electronic skateboard that allows users to stand up – after her friend Gigi bought one. But when she tried one herself in the parking lot of the North Bergen Walmart, she found it hard to balance and navigate.
In fact, some cities have cracked down on use of the newest gift craze, as they are illegal under laws about types of vehicles people can use on sidewalks and in streets.
“This was on her Santa list. Now it’s off,” said her mother, Angelica Jimenez, responding to Gianna’s navigation difficulties. “She said, ‘Momma, I don’t think so.’ ”
But the electrically powered skateboards have been all the rage in this densely populated county, retailing for prices from $400 to $1,800 in local stores such as Modell’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Hoverboards are different from the older Segways in that Segways come with a middle steering bar. New York City banned them in November, saying they are unregistered motor vehicles. State law applies as well. Under New York state law, hoverboards are covered under the category of “electric personal assistive mobility devices,” and therefore can only be used at up to 8 miles per hour on a sidewalk if a town allows hoverboards to be driven on sidewalks.

“This was on her Santa list. Now, it’s off.’” – Angelica Jimenez
Nyasia Santiago, 16, of Bayonne has been using a borrowed one since October. She uses it to get to school, ride around her neighborhood, and even to try (unsuccessfully) to catch a Hudson-Bergen Light Rail train on Thanksgiving Eve at a station in Bayonne.
“I like it because it’s like a transportation method,” Nyasia said. “It’s better than walking. And it’s fun.”
She’s a pioneer in her circle of friends, one of a few to use the hoverboard. Her parents are okay with her using it because she has become proficient.
“It took me about two or three days,” Nyasia said. “I’m comfortable, and I’m good now.”
Gio Ahmad, an aide to Mayor Richard Turner in Weehawken, doesn’t know anyone with a hoverboard, but has seen kids in his neighborhood with them.
“They’re cool,” Ahmad said. “I think I’d like to try one.”

Rules and regulations

In Bayonne, Police Chief Drew Niekrasz said the city has rules for Segways, which became popular in 2006 – but hoverboards may be different.
For Segways, riders have to wear a helmet and be at least 16 years old.
“With hoverboards, they’re fairly new,” Niekrasz said. “We have no policy on hoverboards yet.”
In Weehawken, it’s the same situation, according to Public Safety Director Jeff Welz.
“They’ve only come out recently, so we don’t have a policy yet,” he said. “There’s a question if they fall under motor vehicle laws, and we’re examining that.”
Welz anticipates an increase in hoverboard use following Christmas.
“Usually the Township Council reacts to complaints,” he said. “We’ve had none, because no one’s seen them.”
Welz said he saw a hoverboard in use locally for the first time Thanksgiving week, on Park Avenue.
Angelica Jimenez of West New York, a state assemblywoman for the 32nd District, said she had heard about New York City’s regulation of hoverboards.
“I’m sure we’ll see something like that come about in Trenton too,” she said.
Multiple phone calls to West New York and Union City officials about hoverboard regulations in their towns were not returned.

Who’s selling them, who’s not

Bed, Bath and Beyond featured them on the cover of its most recent flyer. They range in price from $400 to about $1,800, depending on the bells and whistles, including Bluetooth. The West New York Modell’s on Bergenline Avenue had the $400 models.
“The customers are here buying them,” said Tracy, a manager.
At the “Self Balancing Scooters” kiosk at the Hudson Mall in Jersey City, salesman Lawrence Lamboy of Jersey City said sales have been good since the business opened in October.
Gary Iannitelli, owner of the Classic Skate Shop in Bayonne, said the store does not sell them, even though the boards are closely associated with skateboards.
“I think it’s just a fad. It’s going to come in and then go out of style,” he said.
Other reasons for not stocking them include the fact that it takes a long time to get them from distributors, that there are “bootleg” versions, and that selling them would take away from his store being a “core” skate shop.

Marketing exec: Bad PR for NY

“Banning hoverboards is an exceptionally poor public relations move by New York City officials,” said Monique Tatum, chief executive officer of Beautiful Planning Marketing & PR of New York. “New Yorkers have just started to warm up again to police, and this recent announcement seems to put teens and young adults at risk of being targeted by police.”
Tatum said that hoverboards do not go very fast and are comparable to skateboards.
Calling it a “useless ban,” she said, “I don’t think that people enjoying hoverboards are a threat to anyone.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.

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