Bill would open new roads for Riverbank-made skateboards

03/11/2014 8:57 PM

03/11/2014 11:03 PM

Supporters of electric skateboards made in Riverbank stepped onto a few of them Tuesday in a park near the state Capitol.

They came to endorse a bill by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, that would make the boards legal on roads, trails and other routes where bicycles can go.

Olsen said the current ban, which dates to 1977, was intended for an earlier generation of motorized skateboards that were disruptive. She introduced the bill at the behest of Intuitive Motion, which has made boards at the former Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant since 2012.

“They emit zero emissions,” Olsen said. “They are silent. They are safe. The way they are designed doesn’t allow for tricks.”

Olsen rode one of the boards during a lunchtime news conference at Gallegos Square, a small park bordered by restaurants. Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien did the same.

“I’m very happy for them bringing their innovation, their entrepreneurial spirit to the city of Riverbank,” he said after the event. “And they also brought the cool factor.”

The measure, Assembly Bill 2054, would allow local governments to set specific rules for where the boards could be used. It has been referred to the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Intuitive Motion employs five people in its small portion of the vast plant at Claus and Claribel roads, said Ben Forman, who founded the company with Geoff Larson.

The products, known as ZBoards, are powered by rechargeable batteries and controlled by footpads that make them stop and go. Other companies make electric skateboards controlled by hand-held devices.

ZBoard prices range from $649 for the Classic model, made to go up to 15 miles per hour and 5 miles between charges, to $1,199 for the San Francisco Special, which the company says can hit 18 mph and has a 20-mile range. The latter was designed to be able to climb hills.

Forman declined to say how many boards are being produced, but he did say they have been shipped to buyers in about 45 countries.

Under current law, the boards can be used on private property, such as corporate campuses. Supporters of the bill said it would provide an environmentally friendly way for people to commute.

Forman said the boards would be especially handy for trips between transit stations and homes or workplaces.

Supporters also note that the boards are somewhat heavy, so it’s unlikely a rider might try a trick on a staircase or bench.

Olsen said she toured the former ammo plant last year and heard from Forman and Larson about the need for the bill. Tuesday was the third time she has taken a ride on one of the boards.

“They take some practice, especially for turning, but I enjoyed the experience,” she said in a Sacramento Bee video posted on YouTube.

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