I'm seeing these micro-segways, like the hoverboard and Solowheel, zipping around and they seem really cool. If I get one, where can I use it?— Elliott, Toronto
It may be over for the hoverboard on Toronto sidewalks, says the city.
"Actually, on sidewalks they're not allowed — they're considered motorized vehicles," says Naz Capano, manager, operational planning and policy with Toronto transportation services. "Our bylaws don't allow motorized vehicles on sidewalks, with the exception of (mobility scooters) for people who can't get around without them."
The hoverboard doesn't actually hover like it does in Back To The Future— it's a battery-powered, self-balancing two-wheeled scooter — essentially a tiny, hands-free Segway. People who had never heard of the hoverboard or rapper Wiz Khalifa learned about both this summer when Khalifa got arrested for riding on one at LAX.
Toronto entrepreneur Darren Pereira sells hoverboards — his brand is üüboard — and he says "the jury's out on the law."
"I've been hovering for the last 3 months every single day in downtown Toronto, and I have conversations with police officers every day and they all love it," Pereira says. "Eventually we're going to see hovering police and hovering pedestrians."
About a dozen companies make versions of the hoverboard. They range from $600 to $1,800, Pereira says. Like a Segway, you control the speed (up to 10 km/hr) and direction by leaning forward and backward.
But they're portable, so you don't have to worry about where you'll park them while you run into Starbucks.
Because these devices don't qualify as motor vehicles under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, they're not allowed on roads, says the Ministry of Transportation in an email statement. But, it's up to municipalities to decide if they're allowed on sidewalks, the MTO says.
Toronto's Capano says the gadgets are technically only allowed on private property — not on sidewalks, bike paths, bike lanes or in parks — but, so far, the city hasn't asked police to enforce the law.
"Unless somebody is causing harm on one, or hits a pedestrian, police aren't actively looking to enforce," Capano says. "I was at the Queen's Quay a few weeks ago and a few guys were using these things on the pedestrian portion of the pathway — they weren't causing any harm, but they're not supposed to be using them there."
Toronto Police traffic services spokesman Const. Clint Stibbe says it's not clear what the charges or fines would be for illegal hovering — if somebody hit a pedestrian on one, police could lay a charge.
"With every new piece of technology, the laws are reactionary — you have to see whether these things will actually affect the public first," Stibbe says. "Look at Google Glass — there was this big outcry before it came out and now it's not around anymore."
Pereira thinks the law will catch up with the new commuting technology.
"It's almost like the automobile has been invented and now we have to work out laws, and responsibilities and certain restrictions," he says. "My stance is that this is a progressive way for us to transport ourselves and save the environment — with no gas, no car, no car insurance, no parking and no tickets."
We checked with other cities and heard back from Vancouver and Montreal.
B.C.'s Motor Vehicle Act defines hoverboards and the like as a motor vehicle so they're not allowed on sidewalks next to city streets — but they're also not allowed on roads because they cant be registered or insured, says Vancouver police Const. Brian Montague. The fine could be between $80 and $600, he says. But, police are likely to only enforce if there's a problem.
"There may be a video of me online on one during the fireworks," Montague says. "They look really cool, but the law says they're not supposed to be used on sidewalks."
Montreal police say devices like hoverboards are banned on Quebec roads, but they're allowed on sidewalks for now.
"You can use it on the sidewalk as long as you're not obstructing other pedestrians," says Nathalie Valois, with the Montreal police traffic safety division.
Across the Ocean, British police took to Twitter on Saturday to remind people the hoverboards are illegal to ride in public. Because the devices are a motor vehicle, you require a license and registration to ride it on public roads. Because they are a motor vehicle, they also can't be used on sidewalks.
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