Social media feeds were buzzing with pictures and posts as many around the globe celebrated ‘Back to the Future’ day on Wednesday. However, if Marty McFly had touched down in Hong Kong he would probably be detained today as the closest thing we currently have to McFly’s hoverboard on the market, a mini-segway, has been outlawed in Hong Kong.

Electric scooter hoverboards, or mini-segways – not unlike the desired floating devices from the time traveling franchise which many had hoped would be a reality – are now prohibited in Hong Kong. It is an offence to ride them on roads and pavements.

The product is an advanced version of the segway smart car, which users control by leaning backwards and forwards. 

The Transport Department (TD) told HKFP in a statement that under the Road Traffic Ordinance, these devices are classified as motor vehicles, since they are mechanically propelled.

Hoverboard. File Photo:
Hoverboard. File Photo:

“Registration and licence is required before any motor vehicle is used on the roads, including private roads,” the TD said.

“However, since the construction and operation of these motor-driven devices could pose a danger to the users themselves and other road users, they are not appropriate to use on roads, hence they cannot be registered and licensed.”

Driving an unlicensed vehicle is liable to a maximum fine of HK$5,000 and imprisonment for 3 months on first conviction.

If used on pavements, the TD says this could be an offence under the Summary Offences Ordinance.

Under Section 4 of the Summary Offences Ordinance, any person who without lawful authority or excuse rides or drives on any foot-path without obvious necessity, or in any public place rides or drives recklessly or negligently or at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public shall be liable to a fine of HK$500 or to imprisonment for 3 months.

Hoverboard seen being used in Hong Kong
Hoverboard seen being used in Hong Kong. Photo: Cheema P.S.

“In situations which no other laws are being broken, the above motor-driven devices can be used indoors or other non-road places,” the TD added. However, many parks have their own prohibitive regulations for such devices too.

In 2005, the TD prohibited the use of the mini-segway’s predecessors, the segway smart car, on roads. Segway users “shall also take out third party risks insurance, hold a valid motor cycle driving licence and wear a protective helmet made to the required specifications; otherwise, it will be an offence,” they said.

YouTube video

In October, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service also made it illegal to ride mini-segways in public. They are also considered too dangerous for pavements.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.