When the Segway was being developed amid great secrecy as “Project Ginger,” the hype was that it represented the future of urban transport. It has instead remained largely a niche product used for fun by tourists. Many things counted against it. Firstly, it’s very heavy, too heavy to lift readily up a flight of stairs. Secondly, it’s too expensive, costing over £5,000 a throw. Thirdly, the attitude of governments has been mixed, with some like the anally-retentive UK Dept of Transport banning the thing from pavements altogether, and requiring it to compete with buses and heavy goods vehicles on overcrowded urban roads. Given its low profile, that would be near suicidal. The Segway was designed for city pavements (sidewalks). Users and pedestrians have no difficulty avoiding each other wherever they share space, much as cyclists and pedestrians largely do in pedestrianized areas.
I’ve ridden Segways many times in Nice (photo above of me doing so last Friday), taking them through the narrow streets of the Old Town and through the market crowded with shoppers. It’s not a problem. They are very intuitive to use, since gyroscopes detect the body’s motion and tell the electric motor what to do. Lean forward to go ahead, lean back to brake or to reverse. It takes most people about 8 seconds to get the hang of it. It’s pretty safe, and it’s great fun.
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