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Scooter Boards Are the Latest Street Craze

April 13, 2000

Is it a skateboard? Is it a bicycle? No, it's a scooter board.

Gliding smoothly down narrow alleys and sidewalks on one of the new foldable "scooter boards" feels like snowboarding through the streets. The boards are the latest in urban cool, and orders for them are piling up at major sports shops throughout Tokyo. Many have sold out or are short of stock. The scooter board is the early front-runner for the title Greatest Hit Product of 2000.

Two Wheels or Three Wheels
Riding a scooter board involves standing with one foot on an approximately 50-centimeter (20-inch)-long board with small wheels attached and propelling the board forward by pushing the other foot against the ground. The boards can travel at about the same speed as a person running. Since they are equipped with a steering handle and brakes, even beginners can ride them with ease. A variety of models are on sale, including some that are motor powered, but by far the most popular are the Razor and the K2 Kickboard.

It was the German K2 Kickboard that touched off the current boom. Put on the Japanese market in April 1999 under the slogan "New K2 innovation takes snowboard passion to the streets," the first shipment sold out within a month. Its special features are its three-wheeled design and a joystick-like handle that allows riders to control the board with one hand. The word kickboard has now become a generic term for all scooter boards.

The Razor, meanwhile, has two wheels and a handle that is gripped in both hands. Lighter and less expensive than the K2, it is the most popular scooter board model.

Scooter Fashion
The secret of the boards' popularity among a wide range of age groups, from teenagers to forty-somethings, is undoubtedly their handiness. They negotiate even sharp turns with ease and, for journeys of about 10 minutes or less, are more convenient than a bicycle. Since, when folded, the boards can be carried in one hand and even taken onto a train, some commuters are using them to get from home to station and from station to work. Even in the world of business, some couriers are riding scooter boards instead of motorbikes and bicycles.

The stylish design of scooter boards is another cause of their success. Some have wildly decorated boards, while others have board tops covered with fur. All manner of optional extras are on sale, including stickers, colorfully decorated wheels, bells, and lights, and some owners have made homepages dedicated to their uniquely customized boards. It is nothing short of a scooter board boom.

Scooter Board Etiquette
These compact boards may be able to glide smoothly even through crowded streets, but they can be a nuisance to other sidewalk and road users and also a potential source of danger. The question of what rules should apply to scooter boards is under discussion. The Road Traffic Law prohibits the use of roller skates and other such modes of transport on busy roads. Following a November 1999 accident involving a scooter board, in which a pedestrian was injured, authorities reviewed the possibility of applying the law to scooter boards as well. In February 2000 the Metropolitan Police Department stiffened the rules, and now anyone caught riding dangerously on a scooter board can be given a ticket.

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.