This year’s hottest holiday toy is a prime target for thieves. Unfortunately, it’s also the world’s worst getaway vehicle.
Hands-free motorized scooters, optimistically dubbed “hoverboards,” are being marketed as the new bicycles. The comparison is accurate, insofar as both vehicles are frequently stolen. Yet unlike bikes, hoverboards are difficult to steal and ride to freedom. This is because the most popular hoverboard models travel at a maximum 6.2 miles per hour, the speed of a brisk power-walk or an unambitious jog.
Hoverboards do not actually hover. They roll on two wheels at modest speeds—like short Segways. Still, they whizzed into popularity in 2015, as new models hit the mass market at a somewhat-affordable $300 or so. But that price tag is still attractive to thieves, as a 15-year-old in New York City discovered in September.
The teenager was riding his device in Manhattan’s Financial District when three men asked him if they could take the board for a spin. Predictably as a kid movie villain asking to “borrow” a bike, the men refused to return the hoverboard, opting instead to punch the teen in the face and run off with the $350 board on foot.
He was neither the first nor the last victim of hoverboard crime.
London’s first hoverboard muggings occurred in July when a man robbed two riders at knifepoint. In August, a Long Island thief drove his car alongside a hoverboarding college student, demanded his board at gunpoint, and drove away. In October, a hoverboarding London teen was attacked by four men who stole his board and fled in a car. That same month, a Philadelphia man stole a hoverboard at gunpoint and fled on foot, while a thief who robbed two Milwaukee girls of their hoverboards fled in a car. Last week in Brooklyn, three hoverboarding teens were accosted by three non-hoverboarding men who punched them, stole their boards, and drove away in a minivan.
None of these thieves fled on the vehicles they stole, instead carrying the boards on foot or in a car.
But hoverboards’ slow and unwieldy nature means some thefts are doomed from the outset. Video footage of one failed hoverboard mugging shows a would-be thief running down a London street with a heavy board under his arm. A bystander jogs after the thief, kicking his legs out from underneath him. The thief appears to fall onto the hoverboard and skid for a few satisfying feet, before the board rolls out from under him.
For aspiring hoverboard thieves, there’s still hope for high-speed, Back to the Future-esque hoverboard crimes. A one-wheeled board from Hoverboard Technologies promises to hit top speeds of 16 miles per hour, faster than the average human runner. The board is still fundraising on Kickstarter, with the goal of hitting markets next summer.
Until then, stick to stealing bikes.