Failure to launch: hoverboards banned

In 1989, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale instilled a whole generation of kids with the dream of one day zipping around atop a board suspended in thin air with their hit film “Back to the Future Part II.”

Now, almost three decades later, that dream has inched ever-so-closely to fruition with the advent of mobile transportation that loosely resembles Marty McFly’s garish flying skateboard. But that dream has turned into a nightmare for some owners of these hot bi-wheeled devices with the high-tech toys bursting into flames at an alarming rate.

“Because of the uncertainty around the patents involved in making them, everyone knocked it off,” billionaire investor Mark Cuban told The Daily Beast. “There are a lot of crazy back door deals at those factories, so that they all buy almost all of their components from the same few sources – which means that even the most expensive have some junk in them.”

Indeed, with the rise in demand for hoverboards during the 2015 holiday season came an influx of unsafe products. These were flimsy things cobbled together with cut-rate tech and pumped out onto the market. With no regulations in place to monitor them, these faulty devices present a major safety hazard for potential riders. This has led to airlines and other public transportation systems outright banning them, not to mention more than 30 college prohibiting their presence on campus.

Guilford College is one of those campuses, and not everyone is happy.

“Why do you hate fun?” said sophomore Laura Navey. Her sentiment is a common one.

“Honestly, I think they’re pretty cool,” said junior Jared Willis. Willis, who works in the Hege Library, had several encounters with a hoverboard owner. “It was just one person who would come in. He’d come in every now and again and just ride through. It never really caused any issues.”

“We actually used to like to joke that we should get one for the library just to ride around and check headcount,” Willis said.

Junior Resident Advisor Cristina Guttersen echoed this sentiment.

“I never saw any issues with it,” Guttersen told us. “It wasn’t being a disruption to anyone, so I didn’t see any problems.”

Guttersen is acquainted with another RA who had a hoverboard owner on their hall.

“From my understanding, they didn’t have any issues,” said Gutterson.

Even Willis and Guttersen, who expressed interest in the devices, understand the risks involved at storing them on Guilford’s campus.

“I do understand why they’ve been banned,” Guttersen said. “They do pose a huge fire risk. Residence hall rooms just light up instantly, it’s ridiculous. I can definitely see the fear with that, especially since some people don’t even leave during fire drills anymore.”

Junior Zack Wolfe voices a similar opinion.

“They’re cool. I think there’s a place for them, but I’m not sure it’s a college campus. I think the banning does make sense thanks to the whole immolation thing,” said Wolfe.

Guilford College’s Public Safety department issued the ban in late January, purportedly due to the potential fire hazard. As of this writing, they were not able to be reached for comment on the decision.

Despite the understanding from some students over the ban, there is still optimism that safer hoverboards will mean a lifted ban at some point down the line.

“I think, at some point, they should be allowed,” said Willis. “It’s a great idea, but until they’re deemed safe, it’s probably the correct decision.”

“Once the problem is fixed, there’s really no reason for it to continue being banned,” said Wolfe. “Except for on the subway. You’re kind of a j—— if you use them there.”

Guttersen had similar thoughts.

“It kind of sucks, because they’re cool, but I do understand,” said Guttersen. “But if you can find a way to minimize the risk as much as possible, I would be fine with it. Personally, I think as long as it’s not posing a serious threat to anyone, then … why not?”

Whether there will be more regulation on these devices remains to be seen, but for now, dreams of recreating “Back to the Future Part II” will have to wait a little longer to take off.