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Entries in Segways (1)

Thursday
Jun232011

Boston Bans Segways on Sidewalks; Tour Company Sues

Kim Carson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- When a local tour company in Boston showed people around the Massachusetts city on Segways -- those two-wheeled self-balancing people movers -- local residents seemed ready to start a revolution.

So now, Boston has passed an ordinance banning Segways from public sidewalks, and Mayor Thomas Menino has signed it.

But Boston Glides, the one tour company that uses them, is literally making a federal case of it. There is an injunction in place while a lawsuit makes its way through the legal system.

"Boston is known as a walkable city, and to have these motorized devices on the sidewalk is just absolutely dangerous to pedestrians," said City Council member Sal LaMattina, who first proposed the ban, in a comment to the Boston Herald.

Boston Glides shot back.

"Where they're coming from, I have no idea," said Edan Shekar, a guide for the tour company, in a telephone interview with ABC News. "We've never had an incident.  They're trying to legislate us out of business and if they succeed, I'm going to be out of a job."

Shekar said the tour company, which has 30 employees, limits Segway groups to six people.  He said the Segways are capable of a maximum speed of nine miles per hour, five mph on the bumpy sidewalks of the North End.

"People are scared of the machines at first, I think," Shekar said.

There has actually been a study suggesting they have reason.  A group of emergency room doctors, in a study last September in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said Segway-related injuries "are significant and seem to be increasing," especially among inexperienced users.

"Further investigation into the risks of use, as well as the optimal length and type of training or practice, is warranted," they wrote.

Segways have found niche markets as novelties for tour groups, as a quick way for police to maneuver in public places, and as an aid to warehouse workers (Amazon.com was famous as an early user).  People who have used them say the scooters, balanced with the help of two computers, are remarkably hard to tip over.

But Boston is hardly the first place to pass restrictions on their use, and Boston Glides said it will be forced out of business if it is forced into traffic on the streets.

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