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The Segway might have made a major contribution to urban transport, but it has not done so yet.

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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2 Responses

  1. I would have said that the DoT has got it exactly right, keep the Segway to cycle lanes and roads, particularly in London, where many pavements are too narrow and/or crowded to even consider using one.
    If the speed of the Segway was restricted to walking speed, it might be practicable to use in the UK, but anything faster and it is a disaster in waiting. It might be possible to allow them in fully pedestrianised areas, but there are collisions every day between un-powered scooters, skateboards, skaters and pedestrians even there.
    Licensing them with compulsory third party insurance I would consider essential even for pedestrian areas, since, as you have pointed out, they are heavy, and will cause damage to an unprotected person on foot.
    I have used one and consider them “fun toys”, but not a serious mode of transport especially in anything like a busy area.

  2. Nothing in life is what at first sight seems. I quote a saying my uncle used many years ago. Segways are not totally safe and it is disturbing that the owner of Segway, James Haselden who was a multi-millionaire, was sadly pulled out of the river Wharfe just over three years ago after riding his Segway into the river and drowning. Perhaps this had an influence on the decision the UK Department of Transport made about Segways. Take care my friend, I would not wish an accident on anyone using one of these .

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