Marquette Wire

CUMMINGS: Hoverboards – a common sidewalk foe

Michael Cummings, Assistant Opinions Editor

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It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a 7-foot-tall basketball player on a hoverboard.

Hoverboards have become increasingly popular nationwide, and Marquette’s campus is no exception. Now, along with fiery squirrels and Greek-life baked goods, students are met with levitating persons on their early morning walks. The boards are future-like, but students have not taken well to their presence on campus.

Those walking have always had plenty to raise their eyebrows at when sleepily dragging themselves to class. Paces vary with slow strollers, speed demons and early morning joggers, who all seem to take up sidewalk space in their own unique ways. There are zoned-out freshman who wander cluelessly onto your path and hipsters bicycling way too fast. Today however, students have found common ground on which to share frustration: hovering individuals.

Many Marquette students are bitter at the sight of this new technology. As the semester draws to a close, students are stressed about finals and have spent every last penny in their checking accounts. A $300 hoverboard doesn’t exactly fit into the Ramen budget, and seeing students use technology that you can’t afford for yourself adds frustration to an already tense time of year.

For some upperclassman, the cold walk from apartments and houses is hard enough without peers floating above you on the way to class. Feelings of inferiority only make an 8 a.m. walk that much worse.

Furthermore, the fact that Division I athletes seem to be among the few students with hoverboards warrants frustration as well. We’ve all heard about Tempur-Pedic mattresses and full size refrigerators in McCabe Hall, but now athletes have the ability to hover too? That’s just not fair. A futuristic society has emerged and the more evolved humans have found an alternative mode of transportation while the rest of us still tread like Neanderthals.

Hoverboards, or “Segways without handlebars”, are self-balancing scooters in which leaning backwards will send you in reverse, and leaning forward will scoot you head-on. Years of cold Milwaukee winters have done a number on campus sidewalks, making hoverboards impractical at times. Maneuvering cracked and warped paths to academic buildings is not easy while balancing on two wheels. Why try to balance four inches above the ground – arms out in front of you like Frankenstein for stability – when you can just walk like everyone else?

The boards are similar to the Mattel Hoverboard from “Back to the Future II,” but students are not nearly as smooth as Marty McFly. Students have been witnessed losing their balance, falling, hitting their heads on the top of doorways while scooting into buildings, accidentally increasing speed and crashing into walking students.

On one occasion, I watched as a student attempted to come off the curb and onto the street without leaving his board. I’m not entirely sure how he thought it would end, but he provided nearby walkers with a good laugh.

Hoverboards can be dangerous. They have been completely banned from sidewalks in Britain and college students nationwide have complained about them since August. As for Marquette, MUPD said earlier this year that the boards are legal as long as students using them abide by pedestrian laws.

In my search to discover what the fuss was all about, I politely asked a student in Wehr Chemistry if I could give his board a try. As I stepped onto the board, I almost immediately fell. The boards are awkward and even on a flat surface I had trouble maintaining balance. Imagine the campus’ reaction to a Division I basketball player missing the entire season because he lost balance on his hoverboard. I don’t picture pleased Golden Eagle fans and coaches.

And if the boards still seem practical, one can simply wait a few more weeks until December greets us with the gift of snow. If gliding over piles of leaves wasn’t hard enough, a few inches of slushy Wisconsin snow will certainly present some problems for hoverboard users. Maybe if students are really afraid of walking, we will see hoverboards equipped with snow tires and bootstraps. Oh the humanity.

The truth is, we are not quite used to the idea of a hoverboard. New technology always warrants skepticism and jealousy from those without the luxury. It’s difficult to fully appreciate something when access is limited.

Some day, hoverboards will be universal and all students will float to class together in unison. Until that day, walkers on campus must continue to deal with burning envy and sore ankles. At the very least, we can enjoy a few laughs while we suffer.

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