The law from 1835 that bans ‘hoverboards’

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By Alex Aldridge on

Police tweet reminder of section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 amid rise of new craze


As 21 October 2015 draws nearer — a date which Back to the Future II fans of course know as when the film’s characters Marty McFly and Doctor Emmett Brown travelled into the future — hoverboard hysteria is in the air.

It was these incredible floating skateboards that captured the imagination of fans of the hit 1989 movie. Yet 26 years on and hoverboards still don’t exist.

Step forward battery-powered electric vehicle company Segway, which has launched what it terms a “hoverboard”. Despite having wheels, the thing has caught on in a wave of Back to the Future nostalgia.

But yesterday the Metropolitan Police ended the party, tweeting that hoverboards were illegal.

The Crown Prosecution Service’s website confirms that “self-balancing scooters” (aka hoverboards) can’t be ridden on roads as they’re not licensed and registered, while using them on pavements would breach section 72 of the Highway Act 1835.

Under section 72, taking a “horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle” on the pavement is also deemed illegal. The full section of the Act reads:

If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon … every person so offending in any of the cases aforesaid shall for each and every such offence forfeit and pay any sum not exceeding over and above the damages occasioned thereby.

Let’s just hope that there are still enough criminal lawyers left after the government’s latest round of cuts to prosecute all those hoverboarders.