OCEAN CITY- After months of debate, the Ocean City Mayor and Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to prohibit the prolific and potentially dangerous hoverboards and other unauthorized motor vehicles on the resort’s Boardwalk.
After hoverboards started making an increased presence on the Boardwalk last summer, the Police Commission began a debate on how to define and regulate them in terms of other vehicles already permitted. The potential safety issues were researched and discussed at length at the Police Commission level, prompting Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro on Tuesday to recommend to the Mayor and Council an outright ban of hoverboards on the Boardwalk.
“The Police Commission has concerns and we share those concerns as far as the proliferation of these vehicles on our Boardwalk,” he said. “The hoverboard specifically we would like to see a prohibition on.”
The Police Commission reviewed the proliferation of hoverboards on the Boardwalk particularly on two major concerns. One is the erratic way in which they are often used, which can cause injury to the operator and to others. The second major concern is the possibility of the hoverboards being a fire hazard. While the OCPD deferred to the expertise of the fire department and the Fire Marshal on the latter, Buzzuro and the Police Commission did considerable research on the former before making a recommendation to ban the hoverboards on the Boardwalk.
“As my research has shown since this was debated at the Police Commission level, at least 100 universities and colleges have banned the hoverboards, Disney has banned hoverboards and New York City as a whole has banned hoverboards.”
The state of Maryland defines hoverboards essentially the same as Segways as an electric personal assistive mobility device, or EPAMD, with two non-tandem wheels, self-balancing, and powered by an electric propulsion system with a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour.
They are offered by a handful of different manufacturers and some have been deemed safer than others. Last year, the hoverboards were offered for sale by some retailers in the resort and for rent by some traditional rental businesses. Buzzuro said the research had shown issues with the design of some models in terms of a potential for fire, and on safety in general with hoverboards interacting with heavy pedestrian traffic and interacting with traditional non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles and surreys, for example with have become such a part of the Boardwalk landscape.
“It’s not only the construct and design, it’s also the issues with safety and the potential for fire,” he said. “So, all these things taken into consideration, the hoverboard itself and additional vehicles the police department would recommend at least a moratorium if not a prohibition as we go forward.”
With that said, Councilman Tony DeLuca made a motion to accept the chief’s recommendation and issue a complete prohibition of hoverboards and other non-permitted motorized vehicles on the Boardwalk.
“The Boardwalk is a pedestrian avenue and all motorized and non-motorized vehicles except those permitted by the town should be prohibited,” he said.
Bicycles, surreys, skateboards and Segways are permitted on the Boardwalk at all times from the Tuesday after Labor Day to the Friday before Memorial Day. After that the types of vehicles expressly permitted by the town on the Boardwalk see their hours reduced from 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. of the same day.
While the vote was unanimous, Councilmember Mary Knight questioned how the message would get out and how hoverboard operators would learn of the prohibition.
“During the Police Commission hearings, did you discuss signage at all?” she said. “I know I see a lot of little kids out there with those little motorized cars on the Boardwalk. I know we don’t like more signs on the Boardwalk, but is there a possibility for signage?”
The Mayor and Council placated Knight’s concerns and said the existing signage would be altered or new signage would be created to let the public know about the ban on hoverboards.
“I just know enforcement will be a lot easier if there is a sign,” she said. “I honestly think some people won’t realize there is a ban when they see the Segways and they think they can have anything else up there with a motor.”