With the weather finally getting warmer and traces of snow dissipating, shoes on the ground are slowly being replaced by wheels. People are finding different, faster and maybe lazier ways of moving between classes and around campus.
Bicycles are most prevalent. I see them lined up beside class buildings and residence halls. Less obvious are skateboards and longboards, though still very popular. Very rare and maybe gone are the days of the scooter, the inline skate and the Segway (though rumors persist).
And then there are wheelchairs, but that’s different.
It was last September when I witnessed a hoverboard for the first time. To me it resembled a Segway people mover without handle controls. A young student was carefully teetering along the sidewalk near FLITE, momentarily lost balance and nearly landed headfirst into the concrete stairs leading to the building.
The hoverboard seems to be the latest fad in personal transportation, a sort of motorized skateboard rotated 90 degrees, perpendicular rather than parallel to the rider’s direction of travel. You’ve probably seen them on Facebook. You might own one yourself. Though, if you have one on campus, you’re committing a serious offense.
Ferris State’s ban on hoverboards is a relatively new rule. It is not an isolated case. Campuses across the country are banning the device due to what is deemed a fire hazard.
As with residence halls, they are banned in all campus buildings due to these reports of them causing fires. They are also banned from use on sidewalks as they do not contain any actual brakes.
“They’re unpredictable,” said Tre Hue, Ferris junior in electrical engineering. “It won’t last long,” he said referring to the trend.
I met Tre as he was standing at the top of a slight incline near the Timme building, about to escalate down the sidewalk on a longboard. Longboards are essentially elongated skateboards as one might assume from the moniker. It was a chance encounter as it was his first time on one.
“This is my first hill,” said Hue. “I’m going to build it into an electric longboard. I need to learn how to ride it first.”
He rode down the slope smoothly at first but bailed as his path grew steep and bumpy.
“He didn’t make it very far,” said nursing freshman Dakota Radloff, Hue’s cousin and observer of the first attempt.
Like hoverboards, skateboards of all sizes also lack brakes, and therefore are not allowed on campus. Most riders are not aware of this rule. It’s not a major offense and they’re rarely ticketed.
“We don’t go out of our way to look for them,” said Capt. James Cook, assistant director of Ferris DPS. “But there is an ordinance prohibiting them. They can be ticketed. It’s been done in the past.”
Normally DPS officers stop skateboarders to educate them of the ordinance. The rule covers any personal transportation device that lacks brakes.
Despite being a safety hazard, and therefore prohibited, skateboards are a perennial favorite and not likely to go away overnight. They are suggested to be a quick way to move around.
I met David Cory as he was returning to his dorm with a skateboard in hand.
“Getting to class is downhill so it’s fast,” said Cory, a skateboarder and student in mechanical engineering. “Getting to my dorm is uphill. So it sucks.”
Cory’s message to fellow skaters resounded earlier words from Hue and Radloff: be careful.
“Don’t be a burden to walkers,” said Cory. “Try not to scare people. Look out for rocks.”
“It’s a good way to get around,” said Radloff. “As long as everyone’s paying attention.”
When told of a rule against skateboards, Cory’s response was simple.
“I’d walk I guess.”
“They don’t mix well with pedestrians,” said Capt. Cook. “We’ve had skateboarders run into cars. There have been accidents in the past.”
David Cory, like many students, also rides his bicycle occasionally. There is no rule against riding bikes as long as they contain brakes and are secluded to use on roads. Still, sidewalks are a popular spot for bicycle sightings.
The main problem with bicycles, according to DPS, is theft.
“We do get bicycles stolen from the bike racks,” said Capt. Cook. “Usually due to lack of securing them. Locks have been broken as well.”
According to Cook, there were two reported thefts just last weekend.
There are many ways to move around campus, especially as the weather is nice and spirits are high. But it is always good to know the rules and be safe.