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Segway: Yay or Nay?

Buzz Poole
11/08/2011 - 00:00

I remember the first time I saw a Segway in action. I was at Union Station in Los Angeles, in 2002 I believe. A friend had dropped me off early so I wandered around waiting for my train to San Diego. Robocop was my first thought upon seeing the tanned, shorts-wearing, sunglass-clad cop awkwardly shimmying in place on some silent two-wheel vehicle. Trying to stay in one place seemed too difficult for him, so he patrolled the corridor, just doing laps, as people stopped and watched.

Back then, I thought for sure this was some flash-in-the-pan boondoggle foisted upon the LAPD. But you know as well as I do, Segways are very real, and popular. Nationwide, law enforcement officials use the battery-powered “person-mover” and a great number of individuals use them to tool around.

In September 2010, when I was in Granada, Spain, the number of tours conducted on Segways astounded me. Employees of the local Segway tour company waited for customers in Plaza Nueva, the mighty Alhambra filling the sky above the hills, and accessible by foot, bus, bicycle or, you guessed it, Segway. A couple of the approaches to the Alhambra are quite steep, but one of the more gentle climbs is what the Segway riders use. The thing is, part of the route is on the primary road along which buses and taxis shuttle people to the Alhambra, and locals use to get home to the neighborhoods of Albayzin and Sacromonte. Did I mention that the cobblestone road is narrow and that sidewalks appear and disappear like a breeze? On the weekends, the traffic can be annoying. On foot, you can walk by (though you really do have to squeeze into doorways at times if a delivery truck comes chugging along). But without fail, there would also be lines of Segway riders trying to navigate the road.

I must admit my surprise upon reading “Two wheels good, two legs bad,” on The Economist’s Gulliver blog. It is not the kind of activity I expected the blog’s intrepid business travelers to indulge, but here it is, a short account of seeing Copenhagen via Segway. Clearly, it is big business: according to the piece, one website alone lists over 500 Segway tour providers worldwide.

True, I haven’t tried one. If someone were paying me, I’d give it a go, but otherwise I’m happy to keep to my own two feet, or ride a bicycle.

Have you ever tried a Segway while traveling? Would you do it again?

Bonus link: In a strange twist of fate, the owner of Segway died on his Segway.

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