Segway

For all those people I’m jealous of that have a Segway, what’s it like riding it? Once I have the money, I would love to get one, but how feasible is it for transportation? I really want to get one!

Because of the expense, I would recommend that if possible, you join a Segway tour somewhere. You will be instructed how to ride it, and then you will get to ride it “in the wild.”

My first couple times on a Segway were on smooth, flat pavement in a small area like a large room or driveway. Riding one on sidewalks, roadways, up and down ramps, and over a bridge was a very different experience. It definitely changed my opinion of the Segway.

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive; I would not recommend that you buy a Segway without a test ride. It looks cool, but you’ll only really know if you like it after you’ve been riding one for an hour or two.

You need to live somewhere with sidewalks for it to be a viable mode of transportation (It may sound funny, but I’ve been to some parts of this country where I’ve been shocked at the lack of sidewalks/crosswalks). Most older neighborhoods (pre-WWII/pre-automobile) have extensive sidewalks everywhere, as well as some new neighborhoods. Here in the northeast, while there was a period (in the 1950s through about the 1970s) where sidewalks fell out of favor, zoning rules now mandate sidewalk construction on all new property being built/renovated around here. With an abundance of sidewalks combined with level-boarding public transit (think high-level train/bus platforms), it’s a really versatile mode of transportation if it isn’t raining or snowing.

Unfortunately, due to zoning-mandated low-density [inefficient] sprawl, most of the country is too sprawled out for efficient pedestrian/transit based transportation systems to work right now, except in some urban centers and many “older” cities in the upper Midwest/Northeast. This was the major reason why Segways didn’t take off like many originally thought, in that for the last sixty years we’ve been building our cities to zoning laws heavily lobbied for and influenced by the automobile industry to strictly limit density (thus ensuring that there would never be any efficient alternative to the automobile, thus instant monopoly).

That’s not to say we shouldn’t work towards improving the pedestrian/cyclist and public transit systems in our cities, but that’s the current state of affairs.

Sidewalks are very good, usually. The recently installed ramps at the street-corners are the biggest factor in smooth travel for a segway. They won’t climb curbs very well, so you’d risk falling by trying to get across intersections if there were not those ramps. If you’re going to Atlanta, there is a tour via segway available in the area. The office was at downtown Atlanta district, a significant hike from the GaDome/ expo center. The main risk in taking that tour is that you will get even more enthused about owning a segway.

Downtown Atlanta is one of the most Segway friendly areas I’ve found. They have wide sidewalks, and the hotels don’t seem to mind if you [responsibly] glide through the lobby to the elevator. And while I haven’t used a Segway on MARTA, they allow bikes onboard so I’d assume they’d also allow Segways if you really need MARTA for some reason (like if you’re staying at a hotel that isn’t in the downtown area).

The only annoying part is getting from downtown level (everything in downtown Atlanta is actually like 50-100 feet above the real ground level) to the GWCC/Dome level. It takes a lot of ramps and elevators.

Definitely take a Segway tour before you buy one.

I am a teacher who has been interested in this mode of transportation, but has not had the chance to ride one. Until…on a trip to Europe with my wife, we booked a Segway tour thru the streets of Prague Czech Republic.

Looking back on the adventure is was great, the wind in my hair as we sped down century old cobble stone streets while soaking in all the history of old Prague.

But…the actual experience was very different at the time. The instruction period lasted for about 5 minutes, after being told we won’t need helmets. And then we were off through the streets, up and down curbs (the Czech Republic doesn’t have to follow ADA) and down steep streets. My wife and I both fell off and crashed into park benches and curbs. The guides advaice was get back on and go.

Moral of the story…start out on a flat surface, to get the hang of it before you take it out on the street. Very cool transportation, probably this technology will be a part of future commuter cars in urban centers.