If you have never heard of a segway before you are not alone. However, when you find out what it is, you will probably have the urge to rush out and buy one.
When you were a child you may well have had a scooter. One of those things with a platform with a wheel at the back and one at the front, with a handle which you use to steer. It is powered by you standing on the platform on one foot and pushing on the ground with the other. On flat ground, or going downhill the work is easy. However, when you come to going uphill it becomes more of a problem.
The segway does away with all that because it has an electric motor. It is a platform on which you stand but has a wheel at each side with a tyre on, which overall is a little large than a wheel on a wheelbarrow.
To look at it the first thing you will think is “How does the rider ever stay upright on this device?” The answer is more clever than you might think, because it is not the rider who controls that, it is the segway itself. The segway is actually self-balancing and the name is derived from the word “segue” which literally means “follows”.
It uses gyroscopes to stay upright and was invented by Dean Kamen, an American entrepreneur and inventor, who released it to an unsuspecting public in 2001. It is described as “the greenest way to travel”. It went into production in 2002 and is a very convenient way to travel around towns and cities. With a top speed of 12½ miles an hour it is a lot quicker than walking. It doesn’t take up a lot of space so can run along pavements easily.
However, it doesn’t steer like a conventional scooter does. Steering is controlled by the rider leaning backwards or forwards, and to the left and the right.
Segways are often used by workers on industrial sites and in warehouses since they offer a quick, convenient way to travel around, for instance, a large industrial estate such as Medway City Estate in Kent.
However, there is a problem. In the US the segway can be legally ridden on pavements in more than 30 states and can also be ridden in Portugal, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and in German cities. In the UK, though, the segway is classed as a motor vehicle and may not be ridden on pavements. In January 2011 Philip Coates of Cudworth in Yorkshire was successfully prosecuted for riding one on a pavement. The judge said that it was not an easy matter to determine, but that he was satisfied that it was a motor vehicle under the meaning of the law and that the case was, therefore, proved.
Campaigners who want to use them in Britain have said that as they are classed as motor vehicles they cannot ride them on pavements, but yet they do not pass all the requirements of a motor vehicle so they cannot be ridden on the roads either! This means that you can only use them on private estates and property in the UK, so if you do want to buy one (which will cost you around £5,000) and use it for travel around town, you will need to wait for a change in the law.