San Francisco bans Segways on sidewalks, bike paths

Start walking

Last Monday (Dec 16) San Francisco civic leaders voted 8-2 to bar the use of Segways on footways and cyclepaths.

This is the first serious obstacle to inventor Dean Kamen's "pedestrian-friendly" "sidewalk interloper".

The ban is welcomed by Matt Smith, a columnist on San Francisco Weekly. In a hard-hitting polemic, he called the Segway " the ultimate American doomsday machine," potentially responsible for a "tsunami of lard."

He said the Segway is "a national threat at least as grave as Iraq: It's a high-technology lard-making device introduced at a moment when America is suffocating from obesity."

When The Register ran a fatties-rejoice Segway goes on sale article last month, the author of the piece (me) was inundated with emails from Americans who said the portrayal of US citizens as flabby to be well wide of the mark.

So imagine the abuse Matt Smith is going to get.

"Fat, rosy cheeks. Ample alabaster bellies. Arms that flap, legs that waddle, bodies by the million shaking like bowls of jelly." That's his description of average Americans.

The last thing fat Americans need is a device that allows them to walk even less than they already do, said Smith. Legislators of San Francisco should be congratulated, he said.

Mayoral spokesman P.J. Johnston said the ban "sends a defeatist message from San Francisco to the rest of the world. We're going to be the first city in the country to send out the message that we're afraid of this product, rather than embracing new technologies and new forms of transportation. It says we're so fearful that we don't even want to contemplate
its use."

And it's not just because of the laziness potential of the device: the claim that it's pedestrian-friendly and will always stop before crashing into fellow sidewalk users was poo-poohed by Smith. There's evidence that Segway supporters have crashed into walls in San Francisco, damaging civic property, he claims.

San Francisco's cycle advocacy group, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, had hoped Segway LLC would put its lobbying cash behind building more Segway-friendly cycle paths. But the corporation declined, arguing the 12-mph devices should be allowed on sidewalks.

In San Francisco, where people still use the sidewalks, this appears to have led to Segway Corp's downfall. © BikeBiz.co.uk