Segways are the two-wheeled, electric-powered contraptions which made a big splash when they were introduced about seven years ago by the inventor Dean Kamen. They're a great improvement over, say, electric bicycles because — well, I don't really know why. Definitely they've got a futuristic sci-fi feel that goes over well in Silicon Valley, what with their fancy gyroscopic stabilization and such. (It would be better if they floated, but we haven't yet perfected the anti-gravity technology.)
Segways were banned from sidewalks in San Francisco, mainly due to the advocacy of seniors, who worried they would be bowled over by them (they're not light, and can move more than 12 miles per hour). This is ironic, since seniors probably stood to gain the most from their use. But banning them from the sidewalks has effectively banished them from the whole city.
Here in Mountain View, they're allowed on sidewalks, for now, and from my office they're regularly seen zipping by on Evelyn Avenue. And in fact, the riders are never seniors — they're most often middle-aged men who look like they could use a good walk.
A couple weeks ago, I saw one of these men standing in line for a Subway sandwich on his Segway. He had ridden the thing into the sandwich place and was maneuvering it slowly along the counter, twisting the steering grip with one hand while pointing at condiments with the other. The device had a small seat attached for him to rest on — and perhaps there's the advantage over an electric bike, which you'd have to actually dismount in order to buy a sandwich.
The best use of Segways may be for the disabled. I haven't seen it done, but properly modified they surely could be a great improvement over the wheelchair.
Whatever their use, it's hard to know why they shouldn't be allowed on our trails, especially since bikes are allowed on them already. As for sidewalks, they're probably OK there too — so long as the skateboarders can join them.
For questions or information on Segway use in Mountain View, contact Peter Skinner of the Public Works Department at (650) 903-6311, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
REMINDER: However you get there — walk, run, bike or Segway — get yourself downtown this weekend for the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival.
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