You get a lot of peculiar protests outside the Houses of Parliament (remember the mass laughing gas inhalation over the summer). But taking a genuine DeLorean and a “hoverboard” to protest laws from 1835 must be one of the stranger ones.
It all comes after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ruled that “hoverboards” and other types of “self-balancing” devices are illegal under the 180-year-old Highways Act.
Which led to this tweet from London’s Met Police.
It was almost as if the CPS knew the date which Marty McFly travelled to in Back To The Future II was almost upon us…
The protesters certainly did. Their demo was pop-culture-tastic, with a couple of blokes dressed as characters Marty and Doc Brown from the classic 80s film series.
Tourists were certainly impressed enough to tear their lenses away from Big Ben for a while.
The legislation under which the CPS continues to ban any pavement-bound wheeled devices is clause 72 under the Highways Act 1835. As you can tell by the wording, it was written a long time before even these non-hovering “hoverboards” became possible.
The Act forbids people to “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”.
Then it goes on to prohibit the same for leading “any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge” along such a footpath.
Oh yes, these laws were written long before cars – or even bicycles – were a thing. But anyone who’s almost been ploughed down by a pavement-mounted cyclist will know why they remain in place.
But bicycles are allowed on the roads – somewhere “hoverboards” are also illegal. This basically means you can only use the new contraptions on private land.
The protesters outside Parliament argued that this is a block on innovation in a technology the public are clearly keen to embrace.
The campaign to review the law is being led by Project 42 (P42), a UK start-up behind one of these “self-balancing” devices, the UniWheel. The guy in the Marty McFly outfit is Russian entrepreneur and one of P42′s investors, Timur Artemev.
Artemev is saddened by how the ban on these devices could mean they’re exported from the UK and only available to use abroad.
“The US and European markets have embraced these ‘self-balancing’ products, and the market in China has doubled in the last year. It’s crazy to think all of this is at risk because of a 180-year-old law written to legislate the horse and carriage,” said Artemev.
“I am part of a generation of dreamers, who grew up with Back To The Future and hoped one day to have our own hoverboards. I hope the UK Government will help us reach these dreams by seeing how these products can be safely used to promote another great British tech success story.”
So although a can of Pepsi remains under 50 dollars and the Jaws franchise never got to number 19 (both predictions from Back To The Future II), hoverboards are getting towards some kind of reality.
All that the inventors and the dreamers want is the law to be a little more lenient, and give this futuristic technology the time to grow.