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California makes electric skateboards street legal (theverge.com)
84 points by danboarder on Oct 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments

It's unfortunate that the text of this included power and speed limit caps in the definition of an electric skateboard. It's not as if cars are defined as only moving under 65 mph and having 120 horsepower. This seems deeply myopic and it's disappointing for Boosted and others to have helped these provisions get cast into law in a state that limits future development and defines unnecessarily conservative limits on performance.

"An “electrically motorized board” is any wheeled device that has a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding that is not greater than 60 inches deep and 18 inches wide, is designed to transport only one person, and has an electric propulsion system averaging less than 1,000 watts, the maximum speed of which, when powered solely by a propulsion system on a paved level surface, is no more than 20 miles per hour."

Low speed electric bicycles are federally limited to 750W and 20mph as well, which probably helped guide this regulatory process. I personally think a 20mph speed limit is very reasonable when regulating the use of motorized products on infrastructure shared directly with other uses (paths and bike lanes).

Electric boards clearly shouldn't be on sidewalks, same as bikes. I'm often stuck slowing down bikes going gently downhill because my boosted board won't go faster than 22. This becomes a safety hazard as bikes try to pass, etc. Bikes don't have separate speed limits in bike lanes and are capable of speeds much higher than 20.

Ability to ride uphill is also a function of output power. This cap is fairly generous but I don't understand why its necessary at all if there's a speed restriction? It'll only limit acceleration and hill performance if there's a speed restriction.

They shouldn't be on roads either.

What bikes have that electric skateboards don't is stability -- it's extremely rare for a cyclist doing 20mph to suddenly fall off entirely, but falling off a skateboard is pretty easy.

Cars should be forbidden, at least in cities. As an asthmatic person, as an endangered pedestrian, as a citizen who cares about sustainable development, as an urbanist who cares about public space and population density, cars may solve problems like how to carry 3 children to school or how to show off about professional success, but I hope we'll limit its usage. My friends in Sydney who have a family, have no car.

> "endangered pedestrian"

Sigh that's level 10000 there. I've been by far hit/forcibly stopped/run out of my path by bikes (and other non-motored or low powered vehicles) than by cars.

Bike riders seem that they think that they own anything that the drive on they never give way on a crosswalk when it crosses a bike lane, when they drive on the sidewalk they are a menace (and often are quite rude if you make them stop or slow down), and they quite often do what ever they want in intersections especially during red signals because no one ever stops them.

Oh it's a red signal no cars are coming lets take a left here not caring that it's a green light for pedestrians we'll just hand signal and spam the bell then be annoyed when they actually don't let us pass and yell that they are engendering us because cars are now coming.

I for one would not mind that people who want to commute on bikes will actually be forced to get a proper license and that police will start actively enforcing and ticketing them (as well as having a license plate that will allow people to call in and complain).

> I've been by far hit/forcibly stopped/run out of my path by bikes (and other non-motored or low powered vehicles) than by cars.

Would you rather be hit by 3 bikes or by one car?

At city traffic speeds I'll take the car. It's heavy but it's also a big flat object and I will land on the bonnet.

Bikes are nasty jagged pointy things which will impart huge forces to randomly chosen parts of your body with a piece of metal.

Would you rather be hit by a baseball ball pitched by a professional player or by a bullet?

I don't have to get hit by either, as an "endangered pedestrian" I have the priority on the sidewalk, and while crossing the street which bike riders constantly ignore, stay in the bike lane, respect give way signs, red signal means no even if you are a bike and you can squish in, the cross walk isn't there for you to make an easy u-turn and the sidewalk isn't there for you for as long as you are seated in the bike.

This is absolutely correct. Entirely too many people pose these false dichotomy questions.

If you have wheels, you belong on the streets. Bicycles and motorcycles must assert themselves on the road. Never allow a car or a truck to share a lane with you. Never let another bike share a lane with you either. Never ride a bike on the shoulder. Never sneak through a red light (well use common sense on this one).

The problem in the US is our car and truck drivers (yours sincerely included)/don't know how to drive properly either. Nobody told us not to share a lane. New Jersey drivers seem to be the worst. We do the rolling stop. We stop and sometimes park in the way of pedestrian crossing. We think we have a right to turn right even with a red light and that right supersedes the right of pedestrian trying to cross the street when they have the walk sign! I didn't even think about the last one until a car had the audacity to honk at me after speeding into a right turn on their red light screeching to a halt as I jumped for safety. As a pedestrian, I had the walk light! People like those should not be driving.

Is there an easy number to call and report reckless driving? What is the solution here? Why should they take my word without evidence? I mean some tailgating idiot could easily call and falsely report someone of brake checking.

Driverless cars can't come fast enough ... I knowninfor one will vote to eliminate human drivers -- all of them -- from the roads.

slow-moving wheelchairs excepted

As a frequent cyclist, the worst that a pedestrian can do is to try to get out of my way, if I haven't rung the bell; they actually move in my way, since I have already planned my trajectory around them.

Cities self-limit car ownership. There isn't enough parking and if alternative means of transport (Uber, Car2Go, buses) are dense enough, people can get away without owning them.

Partly true, but a lot of cities inconvenience the general public to mask the general self-limiting phenomenon, for example by sacrificing space for parking lanes.

> Electric boards clearly shouldn't be on sidewalks, same as bikes.

Regarding bikes, it depends entirely on where you live. If you are in an urban area, where the sidewalks are crowded, and cars can't get up to high speed before the next stoplight, then certainly bikes should be on the street. If you are in a suburban area, where sidewalks are empty and cars travel at easily twice your maximum speed, then the streets are not safe for biking.

>where sidewalks are empty and cars travel at easily twice your maximum speed, then the streets are not safe for biking.

the streets are safe, the law explicitly requires 3 feet lateral separation or no pass. Choosing to endanger people on sidewalk just because not enough balls to ride on the street is kind of low.

> Choosing to endanger people on sidewalk just because not enough balls to ride on the street is kind of low.

Yeah, well, fuck it. I don't have the balls. I also have enough empathy to understand I'm two-three times slower than cars on the road in my city and drivers are seriously pissed at me when I'm holding down city traffic.

What the law says and what drivers do are significantly different. A 45 mph road with poor visibility is not safe to bike on. Alternatively, I cannot endanger people on the sidewalk if there are no people on the sidewalk.

You'll get less hurt in a collision with a bicycle than I would if I get hit by a car doing 100km/h with a drunk driver behind the wheel. By any measure, I should be on the sidewalk in that case and it's extremely selfish to ask me to die just so you don't maybe get a slight bruise on your butt and a bit of mud on your sleeve.

Who's driving their car at 100kmh/60mph on a sub-urban street? that's freeway/highway speeds. Also let me hit you with my bike at 20kmh and lets see how you like it, if you give way to pedestrians fine but we all know you won't because it takes more effort for you to stop than it is for them so you would use the same excuse.

If there isn't a safe way for you to ride your bike in your area don't take it out on pedestrians, and don't ride on the side walk a bike can easily critically harm or even kill a small child and there are plenty of parents that might allow a 3-4 old roam around them on the side walk. Pets especially small dogs whit those retractable leashes are also quite susceptible to being hit by a bike, especially when you can't see the dog or the leash and you just swoosh into it.

If you can't ride safely on the roads near you it doesn't give you the right to endanger others doesn't matter how much of a relative danger you might put them in, go fight to get bike lanes and until then follow the actual law and stay on the road.

Plenty of traffic will be traveling at 35mph which is fast enough for the majority of impacts to be fatal.

Exactly. I'm not asking you to walk in the gutter of the street with cars whizzing inches by you -- why would you ask me to bike there? We've got about the same amount of protection.

Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk can be more dangerous for the rider. You are less visible to cars on the sidewalk and there may be driveways with limited views.

The law isn't going to scrape me up and put me back together after some redneck turns me into road pizza.

I do my best to ride safely for myself and everyone else. Usually, that means taking my rightful place in the road. Sometimes it means riding an empty sidewalk, eyes peeled, at a reasonable speed. Staying alive is more important than demonstrating the size of my balls, thanks.

> The law isn't going to scrape me up and put me back together after some redneck turns me into road pizza.

Like the old saying: "Sure, you were in the right -- but you're still dead."

>then the streets are not safe for biking.

Nonsense. I regularly rode on such roads from childhood until recently, a period of some 30 years, and during all time I was at allegro of vision below legally blind. I have had precisely two accidents involving vehicles, one of which was stationary.

I have zero sympathy with people who say roads are not safe. Learn some situational awareness and anticipation and get off the damn pavement. If you're so terrified you're creeping along on the sidewalk you might as well just give in and get the bus.

Situational awareness only helps if you have options. If I am biking at 15 mph, every car around me is still going at triple my speed. If there were a car or two passing me each minute, then I could slow down and pull over for each one. When there is a constant stream of cars, I would need to trust every one of them to notice me. I don't trust drivers that much.

The only true solution is separated bike paths, but that doesn't seem likely to happen in the US.

They could be Volkswagened:

When on a level surface, cap the speed to 20mph. When on an incline, turbo mode!

This is exactly what several electric "bicycles" do now. They have a road mode which conforms to the federal 750W/20MPH limit, and an offroad mode that allows something like several kilowatts and perhaps 40MPH.

Or they could be Volkswagened and say that it puts out 1000w when it really does 2000 :)

That would kind of be anti-Volkswagening, in that Volkswagen cars had more power than they would have, had they not cheated on emissions standards.

> Ability to ride uphill is also a function of output power. This cap is fairly generous but I don't understand why its necessary at all if there's a speed restriction? It'll only limit acceleration and hill performance if there's a speed restriction.

Hm. It does say "averaging less than 1,000 watts". I wonder if that means it's allowed to turbo up to maintain 20mph on the uphill, as long the average stays within bounds during tests.

I have a couple of electric bikes and a boosted, and the big advantage to being able to do a steady 25 mph is the ability to take the lane on neighborhood streets and be going the speed limit.

Ideally cars should also be limited to 20 mph on all non-arterial streets, and IMO no faster than ~30 mph anywhere that isn’t a highway.

Drivers have a dramatically longer time to react and much better road awareness at 20mph compared to 30–35 mph, and at 20 mph something like 5% of collisions with cyclists/pedestrians are fatal, whereas at 35+ mph the majority of such collisions are fatal.

Fast-moving cars are death machines, in the hands of people I am not happy to trust with my life.

That makes sense - I suppose in that sense, matching the regulation for bikes and for boards doesn't really make sense. I have an e-bike I built that won't do over 20 on electric power, but I still do tend to take the lane and go 25-30 on the street thanks to pedal assist (which boards don't have).

I've been riding a boosted almost every day since July, and I certainly wouldn't feel safe going 25mph with a car behind me while taking a lane. The littlest piece of debris can send you flying, and that car behind you would run you right over.

In Europe, the strictest interpretations of the directives regarding electric bicycles only allow for 250W of motor assistance at a maximum speed of 25 km/h, and only when the bike is pedalled at the same time. And bicycles are still quite stable and 25 km/h is not a particularly high speed: I can reach 40-45 km/h without motor assistance myself. So, no wonder pedelecs aren't that appealing here.

That 1KW and 20 mph is still rather generous for a skateboard.

Not sure where in Europe you mean, but I live in Germany and we have e-bikes with motors far bigger than 250w - you just need to have liability insurance (EUR50/yr)

California defines classes of vehicles with different safety requirements and horsepower/speed/engine size caps. A 40 mph skateboard shouldn't be allowed on bikeways, or with a bike helmet; and maybe needs lights or something for visibility.

Having ridden a 600W electric skateboard, I think 20mph is plenty. They don't brake as well as bicycles -- they can't, because of the need to shift one's weight to stay balanced during braking.

Mine's for sale if anyone wants to buy it. I live in Sunnyvale. Email in profile.

Meanwhile in England, a law from 1835 has recently been used to declare them illegal :(


The only people I've seen using them in England have been doing so very inconsiderately, so I'm happy with this ruling.

England can't even provide safe cycling infrastructure, let's at least keep the pavements safe for walking.

"The only people I've seen using them in England have been doing so very inconsiderately..."

It always seems to be a busy High Street where they can get the most attention. But since they obviously know there is absolutely no chance of being prosecuted they will carry on regardless.

Interesting. I commute by bike in SF and see electric skateboards on the street pretty frequently– I'd assumed they were legal.

Anecdotally, their speed seems like a good fit for the bike lane. I keep a pretty good pace on a bike, but still find electric skateboards occasionally passing me (especially if we're both stopped at a light, since their acceleration is a bit better than mine).

I usually see these - amzn.com/B00SIOZY6A, unless "electric skateboards" is referring to something else

While I don't mind personally, it is generally frowned upon to use affiliate links on HN. Just FYI

That's not an affiliate link, it's just a plain Amazon link. It doesn't include an affiliate code. (But thank you for raising the point in case anyone else was wondering about it.)

The B00SIOZY6A part is an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). I've always felt free to post plain Amazon links here, such as the canonical Amazon URL for this product:


Or the shortened URL that OP posted (but forgot to put in the http part so it wasn't clickable):


Now if you click on that amzn.com link, you will see ref=cm_sw_su_dp in the URL, but that's not an affiliate code either, it's an Amazon ref code.

Here's a Reddit discussion about Amazon URLs, affiliate tracking codes, and ref codes:


Of course, if OP is the seller of that item, it would be a different story entirely!

I don't use any affiliate programmes, and generally dislike them. It was the default amazon URL shortener, sorry if any misunderstanding.

yeah especially since it sets a session cookie that leaches off anything you buy there and not just the linked product. not sure how long the cookie lasts though.

If it were an affiliate link, it would do that. But it isn't, so it doesn't.

See my other comment for details.

Oh man, I was hugely surprised, riding my bicycle in the bike lane along a busy street, when I glanced left and suddenly a guy on an electric skateboard was silently gliding by, basically face-to-face with me a couple inches away (since our head heights were roughly the same, bike vs skateboard).

Link to the bill itself: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtm...

Some interesting notes:

-require the operator of an electrically motorized board to wear a helmet

-require an operator to be at least 16 years of age

OT: I've always wondered if powered mini-transportation tools like electric boards and scooters could fix the gaps in mass transit. Make it so that stops are less frequent/further apart, with the assumption that the last few miles can be covered on your personal device. Instead of buses that have to stop every block, they just run express service between major hubs.

Individuals only have to own/maintain only a <$1000 electric scooter with zero emissions. While the big expensive bus is a pooled resource.

Some people can't afford a TI-83 for their children if it's a requirement in math class. To assume that everyone taking public transit wants / needs / is able to afford even a $300 device to get them the last mile seems a bit out of touch with the typical mass-transit-dependent demographic.

OT: TI-83 should cost < $20 by now, based on costs of materials and that the r&d has been paid off for years.

It's not like TI is selling exactly the same TI-83 now, and it seems that most of their R&D effort and value comes from software.

You can easily duplicate the hardware these days, or even do everything in software but it seems that high quality CAS software is pretty hard to make.

TI and Mathlab pretty much got a monopoly on that as it seems I haven't seen a single off-brand graphical calculator that actually worked.

Not even sure if anyone besides TI and to lesser extent HP are even making graphical calculators these days (HP ones are (or at least were) substantially more expensive.

So when you have a market monopoly and a product with very little obsolescence (graphical calculators can easily last 10-15 years these days) there's nothing to drive the market down.

The TI-8X series is also one of the few "certified" ones and they also have localized versions that disable certain features for countries that limit the use of "smart calculators" but don't ban them outright.

Huh? The R&D was paid off as soon as it completed. Money from completed projects funds R&D in the present; it doesn't retroactively fund R&D in the past.

Yes,R&D is technically paid off as soon as it completes, but paying off the R&D is an investment and the company obviously wants a return on this investment.

But the price of a calculator is totally unrelated to the cost of the R&D associated with the calculator. The original point was nonsense.

The company wants its return to be as large as possible. Speaking in more sensible terms, they want to get as much money as they can regardless of whether they've reached a magic internal accounting threshold or not. R&D just has no relevance at all to product pricing.

Good point. It certainly wouldn't apply to everyone. Consider it additive. Don't take away the slow and steady stop every block buses. Just add more express options.

While there are many people who couldn't afford the calculator. There are also a lot people who could swing a $300 scooter but not afford a well maintained car. They would certainly enjoy to cut some time off their commute.

You can find used ones for 30-40$. It's also a sad day when those are a requirement, graphical calculators (or any calculator with CAS) were banned for all of me high school exams, and for most of my uni courses as well and I'm thankful for that especially seeing how many people can't plot a function on their own these days.

It's certainly a possible solution to the last mile problem, and one I've considered using myself, but the issue is what do you do with your transport once you arrive at your destination?

If your destination is a home or office, you can just take it inside, but what about a bar or restaurant? Leaving a bicycle outside is an invitation for theft and it's certainly too large to bring inside. Even a longboard isn't exactly simple to tuck under the bar or lean on your table.

Something like a folding bike could work.

A lot of people don't live in a climate that is good for biking / boarding year round.

A lot of people also aren't young and able bodies enough to ride such a thing.

People who aren't able bodied already ride power chairs onto the bus.

And there's a lot of in-betweeners who don't need a wheelchair but also can't really ride an electric skateboard. Like, just about everyone over the age of 50.

(Yes yes, I'm sure you have an anecdote about a 51 year old you know who rides an electric skateboard all the time, but broadly speaking...)

Last-mile solution is exactly how they are marketing them on http://www.boostedboards.com .

Over here in airstrip one, if it doesn't belch fumes, it's illegal. All patriotic transport methods allow you to enrich the cabinet and their families by paying Road tax, fuel duty, and of course by buying lovely oil from them.

Seriously, the only place you're allowed to use a scooter here is in your own home, and even then, your neighbours will call the police because your living room is a public Street if we say it is, sonny.


Gas powered bicycles are illegal in many places where all-electric bicycles are legal. I doubt the correlation to oil usage is really there.

I hope I'm wrong, but on busy bikeways, I can see cyclists feeling annoyed with the new powered interlopers. But, if it gets more people out of bigger vehicles (cars and 1000cc+ motorbikes), this should prove positive.

I'm much more annoyed by cars than by any other device on the road when I ride.

Electric skateboards and scooters are awfully zippy and rarely cause any disruption in my ride.

In California, electric bicycles that meet certain restrictions are already allowed in all the places a normal bicycle is. If there's a tension between ordinary bicyclists and small powered vehicles in this class it should already exist. Personally, I've found pedestrians to be a much bigger annoyance than faster bikes (whether powered or otherwise) on dedicated bike/pedestrian paths.

or Uber drivers and taxis sitting in bike lanes...

Anecdotally, after riding ~1000 miles on a Boosted Board on the streets/bike lanes of SF, I've had dozens positive or neutral comments/questions from cyclists and only one negative one.

Of course people tend to avoid confrontation, so that's not necessarily a good indicator of sentiment. And their opinions may change as the density of electric skateboard riders increases.

For what it's worth, the Boosted Boards in the bike lane on Market St in SF seem to get along pretty well with bicycles. I think it helps that they are pretty zippy and don't take up an unnecessary amount of road space (like an electric moped does). There is more of a conflict when the Boosted riders hop on the sidewalk...

I think that's a good sign. A sign we're not only shifting from car-primacy but also to welcoming other modes of transportation.

Sidewalk, personally, I think they should be reserved for pedestrians primarily, with few exceptions (hand trucks, strollers, wagons, wheelbarrows, etc.)

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