I was in Berlin, Germany, last week. As I meandered through the museum district near the famous Brandenburg Gate and segments of the former Berlin Wall, I encountered a group of tourists zipping through the Platz on Segways.
They were moving quickly and silently behind their tour guide. I watched as the group came to a stop and clustered together while the guide delivered a passionate description of the surrounding edifices and their respective meaning.
Within a few moments, the group was again mobile. No noise and no pollution. The tour guide wasn’t relying upon an annoying PA system to impart his knowledge and no one was bathed in engine exhaust despite the mobility of the group.
|Photo: Rob Rothwell
Better yet, the group wasn’t confined to roadways. They simply went where pedestrians went, making the tour up close and personal. Talk about efficient.
My observations that afternoon triggered a whole range of Segway-related thoughts. I did a lot of walking on a tight timeline to take in the historic sights of Berlin. A Segway would have been remarkably beneficial in my pursuit of Berlin’s arduous and painful past.
City tourism is but one use of the rechargeable personal transportation unit invented by Mr. Dean Kamen and manufactured by Segway Incorporated. It’s easy to think of many more. Certainly, there are numerous commercial applications for Segways
Airports, malls and other large facilities benefit from Segway usage. Some police departments have also adopted the technology as a means of covering greater distances without putting a glass and steel barrier between the police and the public they serve. This would be particularly useful in parks and green spaces.
Segways can travel 20km/h and have a range between charges of up to 38 km. At 48 kg (or 106 lbs), they’re not lightweight yet they are remarkably agile and consume a very small footprint. Based on the riders I saw in Berlin, the devices are easy to use and control.
I doubt the tour group had any previous Segway experience, yet they maneuvered the 2-wheeled wonders like pros. Segways rely upon ‘dynamic stabilization’ based on counter rotation to remain upright in what appears to be a gravity defying feat.
So what’s holding back the Segway from exploding in popularity and becoming the next “must have” technology to walk the Weimaraner or get to the yoga studio? After some quick research, price comes to mind.
These technological marvels cost $7,000 or more depending on the model, and there are multiple models designed to address a myriad of needs, from the most basic to the most adventurous.
I’m now on a mission to experience a Segway firsthand. I don’t see it replacing the family car but with a little planning and forethought, I bet it could significantly reduce the frequency of automobile use. One drawback comes to mind though: less walking.
Walking should always be a first choice when distance and time permits. The health benefits are exceptional. Will the Segway replace walking? I hope not.