Hoverboarding in Calgary: Here's what you need to know

Unlike skateboards, hoverboards are not allowed on the city's roads, sidewalks or parks.

Traffic Safety Act outlaws boards on streets and sidewalks

Good luck finding somewhere to wheel your hoverboard in Calgary. It's not allowed on roadways, sidewalks or in parks. (Marta Iwanek/Canadian Press)

Forget the bikes, rollerblades and skateboards.

This year, there's a hot new set of wheels on the block — the hoverboard is all the rage among young people and has exploded in popularity over the past year.

The self-balancing board, similar to a mini Segway without the handle, is about the size of a skateboard.

It's controlled by leaning in different directions, which causes the sensors inside to respond to how far you're leaning.

Sorry, Back to the Future fans — this hoverboard's got wheels.

Nowhere to ride

But before you take yours out for a spin, there are a few things you should know.

They can only be used on private property.- Mary Ann Houston, City of Calgary

Hoverboards are not allowed in public spaces around the world, including New York City and the U.K.

Here in Alberta, they're banned from roads and sidewalks under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act.

"The hoverboard is very similar to the devices that the province describes as a miniature vehicle, like a Segway, electric scooter, pocket bike or motorized skateboard," said Mary Ann Houston with the City of Calgary. 

"Miniature vehicles are not permitted on the highway or public sidewalks. They can only be used on private property."

And under the city's parks bylaw, hoverboards aren't allowed on pathways either, Houston said.

Planning to take the hoverboard to a skate park? No luck there either.

"Even Shaw Millennium Park, you couldn't use a hoverboard because it is considered motorized," Houston added.

It's unlikely you'll get a ticket if you're found riding your hoverboard on city streets or pathways, but that could change in the future. Until it happens, many young people are happy to hover close to home.

Hoverboard enthusiast Aaron Li-Mai, 21, shows off his ride. (Falice Chin/CBC)

"Sometimes [I use it] at home for fun, or when I want to go to my neighbour's house," says Aaron Li-Mai, 21.

"I get weird looks from people, like, 'what is that?'"

Safety concerns

"Hoverboard fails" have quickly become a popular search term online, and while many people's experiences have been (mostly) harmless, the toys have also caused some significant safety concerns.

They've been banned from flights over concerns about faulty batteries. One hoverboard exploded in a Texas shopping mall, while others have caught fire in homes.

A Swagway hoverboard had an electrical malfunction, caught fire, and caused "considerable smoke damage" to a residence in Chappaqua, N.Y., early this month, according to the local fire department. (Chappaqua Fire Department)

It's challenging to learn how to control the boards, says Zachary Klassen.

"When we first got it, it was very difficult," the 16-year-old says. 

"Once you got into it, you could go pretty fast... and I just thought it was fun just spinning around on it and racing someone walking to see who's faster."

Popular, but attainable

Hoverboards typically fall within the $400 to $500 range, compared to a full-size Segway that starts at about $6,000.

There are at least two major suppliers in Red Deer and Airdrie, and here in Calgary, Toys for Boys features an entire wall of the product.

John Dem, owner of Toys for Boys, says hoverboards have exploded in popularity. (Falice Chin/CBC)

"We started with a couple of samples back in November," says owner John Dem.

"Next thing you know, they start getting more and more popular. Customers definitely love them. It's easy to ride, it's new, it's a technologically progressed product. It's unique and it's fun."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


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