City Council moves to ban Segways

By Alan Franciose

There are many ways to tour Boston’s famous and historic sites: By bike, by foot, by trolley and even by Segway.

That last means of transportation however is drawing controversy over suspected safety issues. Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina called for hearings to discuss safety concerns that Segway tours may cause on city sidewalks and create a set of guidelines for Segway users.

A Segway is a transportation device with two wheels. The operator stands on the Segway and operates with their hands.

The hearing has not been called for any specific incident, but rather a number of complaints filed by North End residents about the tours and the company that runs them, Boston Gliders.

“I don’t think Segways on sidewalks coexist with pedestrians,” said Steven Passacantilli, the president of the North End Waterfront Council.

According to Passacantilli, the North End Council has received numerous complaints from citizens who are worried that they might be hurt or bothered by a group of Segway users “buzzing” down the street.

“I could imagine if I lived in the North End that would really get on my nerves,” said Jess Campbell, senior international business major.

However, there have been no reports of anyone in the North End being struck by a Segway driver. Even so, the residents still are worried about the potential damage that could befall an elderly resident should they be struck by one.

“They’re really not suitable for some of the neighborhoods with smaller streets,” Passacantilli said. “We’re just looking to keep people safe.”

Despite holding a hearing to discuss actions to prevent any such incidents from actually occurring, the Boston City Council has not yet defined any terms for Segway operation.

Passacantilli said the guidelines would require all Segway riders to wear helmets, be of a certain age and be forbidden from riding on certain sidewalks. He was adamant in noting that nothing had yet been written and was therefore subject to change.

Allan Danley, the public relations representative for Boston Gliders, calls the hearings and suggested restrictions “nitpicking.”

“There’s been no decisions made, that’s the problem,” Danley said. “All they’ve done is made a decision to essentially complain about their opinions because they have no facts.”

Danley said Boston Gliders has not been treated fairly or reasonably by the councils in their hearings. He said they were allotted three minutes of speaking time in one of the recent hearings, which he claimed was inadequate.

Danley also said he doesn’t think the city wants to restrict Segways themselves, but wants to restrict the Segway companies. He points out that there is much lighter scrutiny placed on bike and walking tours even though they both can pose risks and inconveniences akin to Segway tours.

“You can’t come to a good resolution when people aren’t being reasonable,” Danley said.

The tours already have guidelines, Danley said. Riders are briefed on Segway etiquette, and riders under 18 are required to wear a helmet.
Boston Gliders would be happy to work with the city to develop regulations, Danley said, but he doesn’t think it’s fair that Segway tour groups should face more regulations than other touring varieties.

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