Hoverboards and the death of progress

I love the Back to the Future movies; the mad scientist, the DeLorean. the retro and the futurist aesthetic. Even the borderline incest – in an ‘isn’t that gross?’ sort of way. Naturally I was pretty amazed to learn that someone had actually created a ‘hoverboard’.

Unlike the one in the films, the self-balancing scooters are on wheels – which is rather disappointing to say the least, but they still look kind-of cool. The rider moves forwards or backwards, or side-to-side, using his or her bodyweight. It’s sort of like a miniature Segway. If you want one it will set you back around £200 to £400.

It’s expensive. It’s wildly flamboyant. It’s probably unnecessary… In other words, it’s the perfect toy for grown-up children with more money then sense. I want one!

Enter the killjoy state to crush the dreams of any would-be Marty McFlys. It would appear ‘hoverboard’ scooters are illegal in public. They cannot be ridden on roads or pavements and are only permitted on private property.

Like Segways, the scooters are classified as “motor vehicles”. It is an offence – under Section 72 of the 1835 Highways Act – to drive or ride a vehicle on the pavement.

OK, no problem, you say. I’ll ride my hoverboard on the road.

Sorry, but no. Any motor vehicle on the road must be registered, and the driver must be licensed and insured. Also your scooter is not road legal. Hoverboards and Segways do not meet the relevant European regulations.

Feeling a bit frustrated yet? There’s more.

Bicycles, including electric bikes, are allowed on the road. So long as it has peddles. And a maximum speed of 15mph. And you are over 14. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are permitted on the pavement.

Obviously hoverboards are quite a bit smaller than bikes and mobility scooters. And as anyone who has ever been knocked down on a footpath by an inconsiderate cyclist can attest, those vehicles can hit you pretty damned hard.

The idea that bikes and mobility scooters are fine, but hoverboards are not, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Britain used to be a technological powerhouse: full of innovative, eccentric, totally mad thinkers whose ideas went on to change the world. British inventors gave the world the steam engine, railways, tanks, jet engines, bikes, electric motors, computers, telephones, television, the internet. Yet we have turned into a nation hostile to innovation and progress.

Economic growth is derided by middle class activists and intellectuals as ‘unsustainable‘. The Industrial Revolution is remembered as a period of destitution and poverty, not the massive exercise in wealth creation that it was. New sources of energy are opposed by the green movement, who think all fossil fuels ought to be left in the ground. Politicians and economists talk seriously about the ‘limits to growth’.

In the past, we looked to the future and saw a world full of towering spires and flying cars. Today we look forward to a future very much like the present. Where the hell is my flying car!

I’ll settle for a hoverboard.

Chris has been a member of the Conservative Party since 2010. He believes strongly in individual freedom, personal responsibility, and the power of free markets to eliminate poverty by encouraging wealth creation. Follow him on Twitter: @cjmanby1989

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