It's Illegal to Ride Swegways in Public in the UK Because the Police Are Massive Killjoys

The war on self-balancing scooters—a.k.a. "hoverboards"—has officially begun.

by Joel Golby
Oct 12 2015, 5:44pm

VICE staffer Drew Millard. Photo by Mike Pearl

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Oh, it turns out hoverboards—and don't start, before you start, the great dull linguistic debate of 2015: the "how can they be hoverboards if they have wheels" chat—it turns out hoverboards are illegal, technically, to ride on roads and pavement in the UK. So don't. Just don't.

That's what the police say, anyway, because the police are a load of fucking killjoys. Here's the tweet from NPS Specials that all of these "hoverboards are illegal" news stories are hooked on, and I mean just look at it: Someone had to go through the 180-year-old road offenses act to see if they could rework the Segway legislation to piss on swegways, the police so diametrically opposed to the concept of fun that they drafted up a quick FAQ on swegway pavement riding just so they could say it was illegal, swegways now undulating in some gray zone where they are too unsafe to ride on the road and too dangerous for the pavement, so they just have to be used on private land, as if anyone who has a swegway owns or has access to private land:

So basically, long and shortly: You cannot, technically, legally ride a hoverboard on public pavements or roads. If you've been practicing your balancing quietly and politely on the pavement outside your house, then that is technically an offense and you should be in jail, mate. If you've taken it to Westfield to chat up girls while doing donuts, then I hope you know to make prison hooch, because you are a criminal. If you and your mates have face-planted off one in a McDonald's car park, enjoy being shanked in the kidneys with a sharpened toothbrush, because that's what those big actual hard criminals are going to do to you inside.

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Overall, this feels very "excuse to cuff and roughhouse young black males in a desperate bid by the police to make their weekly quota" to me—but then, I am famously a cynic!—because riding a swegway on a busy street is no more disruptive than jogging in place at some traffic lights, or carrying eight shopping bags while being a slow doddering nan, or having a larger than usual dog. People ride bicycles on the pavement all the time and nobody really does anything about it, and the same goes for skateboards. People do completely insane shit on pavements and the police do nothing. But then somehow you feel this swegway act might be more tightly enforced than most.

The London police have tried to be cool, lately, and I'm not having it. They had that hipster policeman with his moustache and his beard, and we all fell for it. We all looked at him and thought, "No he'd... he'd never kettle me, would he? He'd never fire a water cannon into my eyes. He probably likes Modest Mouse." They do fun tweets like, "Has anyone lost a big bag of heroin? Come to the police station to collect it"—that sort of thing. Slowly, quietly, the police are trying to make us forget they are neon-jacketed bad bastards who hate everything good and like wearing the uniform because it makes them feel significant. ACAB forever—never forget that.

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Anyway, let's be real; let's—no, come on, sit down and let's be real now—nobody is ever really going to be in any way arrested or particularly stopped for riding a swegway on the pavement. At worst, the police might do that thing where they loop their thumbs through their protective vest and do a patronizing "you know that's technically a crime" chat before making you sheepishly dismount and walk around the corner before you ride it again. But it's still nice they dug out a law that predates the invention of the car to make sure nobody rides a swegway on the pavement around them, isn't it? Good work, police. Glad to have you around.

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Joel Golby
riding hoverboard on the sidewalk