- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) With its love of geek chic and congested streets, San Francisco might have been expected to embrace Segway, the environmentally friendly, self-balancing personal vehicle that promises to entice people out of their smog-spewing cars.
Instead, the city today becomes the first large municipality to outlaw the Segway Human Transporter on its sidewalks more than a month before the chariotlike vehicles are made available to the public.
The Board of Supervisors acted last month after intense lobbying by Segway LLC in state capitals to change laws to permit the two-wheeled vehicles on sidewalks.
Thirty-three states, including California, approved Segway-enabling legislation. But that doesn't mean major cities will roundly embrace the scooters touted by inventor Dean Kamen, when he introduced them to great fanfare in December 2001, as apt to "change civilization." California's law allows cities to opt out.
The upright device controlled by body movements with the help of tiny computers and balance-controlling gyroscopes has been tested across the country by postal workers, police officers and meter readers. They are on sale to the public at Amazon.com for $4,950 each and will begin shipping in March.
Critics say the Segway is a safety hazard on sidewalks because it weighs 69 pounds and travels at up to 12.5 mph three times faster than the typical pedestrian. No state is requiring that its drivers be trained, although some have set minimum age and helmet requirements.
"We don't want to say that it doesn't ever make sense. But in urban settings there isn't enough room for all the pedestrians," said Ellen Vanderslice, president of America Walks, a pedestrian advocacy group based in Portland, Ore.
In hilly San Francisco, officials feared the battery-powered Segways would cause more problems than they would solve, particularly for the disabled and senior citizens.
"There were statistics submitted to us about injuries, and the Segways themselves did not have adequate safety features to alert people they might be behind them," said Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco supervisor who supported the ban.
Segway officials say the scooters have been tested for 100,000 hours on city streets across the nation without injury.


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