Home Drive Is the transportation world segueing to Segways?

Is the transportation world segueing to Segways?

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Segway in San Francisco
If you want to get your hands on a new Segway – despite the various regulator roadblocks – they start at around $5,000 and used ones are selling online for anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

Ted LaturnusDespite the fact that it’s pollution free, efficient and tremendous fun to ride, the self-balancing Segway is still stuck in limbo because, says Transport Canada, personal transport devices (PTs) are not “compliant.”

And while the federal government and the provinces try to make up their minds, nobody’s going anywhere on them … at least not legally.

Yes, you can use them on some private trails, in airports, in warehouses and so on. But you can be busted if you ride them around town.

Proponents of the Segway say that, with all due respect, it’s hard to understand why retired folks and the disabled can glide around on battery-powered electric carts, but jump on a Segway or anything like it and you’re liable for a hefty fine.

It’s a Canada-wide issue.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation, for example, recently completed a pilot project to assess the impact of the Segway and how it will affect pedestrians and road traffic. The project was ultimately meant to “develop and set appropriate operating requirements and rules of the road for Segway use, and to determine, under controlled circumstances, the appropriate use of the Segway.”

As it sits, you can use one of the devices on “many” roads, trails, sidewalks and paths in Ontario, but it must be equipped with front and back lights and a bell, and riders under 18 years of age must wear a helmet.

The project also seems to be primarily aimed at the disabled, as well as law enforcement personnel and letter carriers.

The Zappy 3
The Zappy 3, though less sophisticated that the Segway, is almost as versatile and starts at just US$800.

If you break the rules, you can be fined from $250 to $2,500, depending on what you did. For a full list of the rules and regulations applying to the Ontario project, go to www.mto.gov.on.ca.

Elsewhere, a court case in the U.K. saw a 51-year-old man fined some $540 for riding a Segway around Barnsley, in Yorkshire. Although the judge found him guilty of operating a motor vehicle on a footpath, he conceded it was a two-edged sword, and because it was indeed a motor vehicle, “general use on the roads is to be contemplated.”

Not helping matters is the fact that Jimi Heselden, owner of the Segway company in Britain, died in 2010, after losing control of one of his products and plunging into a river, where he drowned.

On the other hand, you can rent these kinds of conveyances all over the world, including in Calgary, Halifax, Vancouver, San Diego, Berlin, Toronto, Dublin and Rome. And, despite the current impasse, it’s inevitable that there will be a breakthrough in Canada before long. The B.C. government, for example, is reconsidering the whole Segway/personal transport situation, and this will likely extend to other personal transportation devices, such as hover boards and motorized skateboards.

If you really want to see how far this technology has progressed, Japan is the place to be. Motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha and Toyota are collaborating on manufacture of a new series of electrically-powered “communication-linked, next generation vehicles with the aim of building a new mobility society of the future.”

One of my favourites is EC-Miu. Battery propelled, this is a small trike for use in the city and aimed primarily at female buyers. Designed as a runabout, the impetus behind the EC-Miu is to create a new infrastructure for urban vehicles for the two companies, while building a transportation system and reducing costs.

While authorities quibble over the pros and cons of PTs, non-automotive companies like eZip, Zap, Razor and, of course, Segway continue to churn them out in a dizzying array of shapes, sizes and configurations. They’re cheap to produce, inexpensive to purchase and about the only limiting factor seems to be the imaginations of the people who design them.

If you want to get your hands on a new Segway – despite the various roadblocks – they start at around $5,000 and used ones are selling online for anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

The Zappy 3, though less sophisticated, is almost as versatile and starts at just US$800.

Stay tuned – this market will only get busier.

Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

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