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Issues with the Segway Human Transporter vehicle



California Council of the Blind
578 B Street Hayward, CA 94541
Phone: 1-800-221-6359
For Immediate Release

July 31, 2002

Contact: Dan Kysor, Director
Governmental Affairs
California Council of the Blind
Phone: (916) 371-1514
Email: dan@kysor.net 


The California Council of the Blind (CCB) wishes to alert pedestrian, senior citizen, and advocacy groups of the Assembly Appropriations Committee Hearing of Senate Bill 1918, which has been introduced by Senator Torlakson. The Assembly Appropriations Committee will be meeting at 9:00 AM at the State Capitol Building Room 4202, Sacramento, California 95814 on Wednesday, August 7, 2002. As of this time we do not know where SB 1918 has been placed on the committee’s agenda.

All interested parties are encouraged to attend and provide testimony in opposition to SB 1918. A large turn out is critical, in order to provide the Appropriations Committee members a broad perspective of concerns and issues of why SB 1918 must not be passed.

If you are unable to attend, please fax letters of opposition to members of the Appropriations Committee. A list of names and fax phone numbers of each Assembly Appropriations committee member will be found at the end of this ALERT.

SB 1918 is sponsored by the developer and manufacturer of the Segway Human Transporter vehicle. The bill defines the Segway as an electric personal assistive mobility device (EPAMD). It is similar to other bills being sponsored by the manufacturer in states throughout the country. Specifically, the California measure would provide for the following:


· Specifies that the EPAMD is not a motorized scooter;

· Defines that an EPAMD in statute is a "pedestrian," the same designation as disabled individuals who use motorized wheelchairs and other similar equipment;

· Permits local authorities to, by ordinance, regulate the time, place and manner of operation of the EPAMD;

· Specifies certain equipment necessary for the use of the EPAMD, including reflectors, a system that allows for a controlled stop, and if the vehicle is used 30 minutes after sunset or 30 minutes before sunrise, a lamp;

· Provides for a five-year sunset of the provisions of the bill; and

· Makes other findings to the efficacy of the vehicle to promote air quality.


As noted above, the Segway Company is working throughout the country to develop statute conducive to further commercial and consumer development of the Segway vehicle. This vehicle is a two-wheeled device utilizing human balance to propel forward. Because of its small size, the Segway Company believes the device can be used wherever a pedestrian can walk. The development of this device has generated a great deal of discussion by pedestrian, senior citizen, and disability advocacy groups on its application and appropriateness in urbanized communities as well as a means to reduce air pollution. Many see the Segway Human Transporter, which travels up to a maximum of 12.5 mph, as a viable transportation alternative for shorter trips. Although there is a great deal of support and excitement regarding the vehicle's potential application, significant concerns have been raised by pedestrian, senior and disability advocacy groups over the particular provisions of the California measure. Some of our issues are:

a) The proposed designation of the Segway as a “pedestrian.” Currently, the only exception to the definition of a pedestrian as a person who is "afoot" is for individuals who utilize a motorized wheelchair or other devices for movement due to a disability. The more appropriate designation would be similar to that used for skateboarders, which is a pedestrian on a skateboard.

b) Adding Segways to the definition of “pedestrian” authorizes the vehicle for sidewalk use. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers incorrectly the Segway to be on a par with motorized wheelchairs. The Segway Human Transporter cannot serve the same purpose as a motorized wheelchair or other devices for movement - in that it cannot be operated by non-ambulatory persons with disabilities who often have no alternative means of access. On the other hand, the Segway user has alternative options e.g., motor vehicle, bicycle, etc. to access their community, and the Segway would be used only to travel the sidewalk more quickly.

c) The Segway scooter is a means of transportation that is thoroughly untested on human subjects, particularly pedestrians and workers. Local governments and many state agencies could suffer tremendous liability exposure. Injuries and death from the Segway scooter could result in huge “deep pockets” litigation in many instances. Could pedestrians sue if injured on state or municipal owned sidewalks for inadequate study of the dangers? Also, could injured employees sue under CalOSHA regulations due to the lack of any CalOSHA testing of this equipment?

d) Most importantly, passage of SB1918 will create severe hazards to other pedestrians, including senior citizens, children, the disabled, blind and deaf individuals, who are not expecting such high-speed and extremely quiet vehicles on sidewalks. The Segway's high speed and noiseless features substantially increase the risk of injury and even death to pedestrians. In addition, the legislation fails to address whether pedestrians will have any legal recourse against Segway users, including those who provide inadequate warning of the approach of the Segway Human Transporter or who operate the device in a negligent or reckless manner.

e) SB 1918 may set a precedent for sidewalk use by other uninsured motorized vehicles such as scooters. The severe safety hazard created by the Segway may also discourage use of the sidewalks, thus adversely impacting the lifestyle of our state and potentially preventing those who walk in order to achieve many normal activities of daily living from fully participating in our society.

f) The threat and discomfort felt by pedestrians, which may discourage walking and use of sidewalks. Allowing a Segway on sidewalks that have been designed for use at walking speeds and that travels at up to 4 times foot speed creates dangers from conflicting uses of the sidewalk.

g) Competition for already limited space on the sidewalk.

h) There is also a great likelihood of crashes between Segway Human Transporter users and motorists. The two most common causes of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes are wrong-way riding and riding on the sidewalk, both of which the Segway Human Transporter would presumably also be doing. Thus, it is quite likely that deaths and serious injuries to Segway users would occur in accidents with motorists. Moreover, There is no way to enforce speed limits set by local ordinances, especially since the speed governing mechanism on the Segway can be easily over-ridden.

i) Where sidewalks don't exist or come to a stop and the road has speeds in excess of 25 mph danger to both Segwayers and motorists is created, unless Segway is provided its own lane.

j) Segway operator having a sense of entitlement to access wheelchair lifts and spaces on buses or rail vehicles, which could result in lawsuits against transit districts.

k) The social justice impacts of allowing an expensive device available to a limited population to dominate public space.

Finally, there are unaddressed issues in Senate Bill 1918 regarding: operator license, insurance, training, and age of Segway users, the regulation of the equipment that should be required for the operation of the device (e.g. helmets, lights and reflectors, DUI), and allowing local jurisdictions to prohibit the use of the device.

In light of the foregoing, you are asked to join other groups and concerned citizens in asking the Assembly Appropriations Committee to reject Senate Bill 1918. Further, you are urged to request that a complete analysis and study should be completed on the safety, benefits, costs of amending the definition of “pedestrian” if similar legislation like SB 1918 is introduced in the future.

Your letters of opposition need immediately to be faxed to each member of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, who are:

1. Darrell Steinberg, Chair fax 319-2109 room 5136

2. Patricia Bates fax 319-2173 room 4009

3. Elaine Alquist fax 319-2122 room 3120

4. Dion Aroner fax 319-2114 room 2163

5. Roy Ashburn fax 319-2132 room 3098

6. Gil Cedillo fax 319-2146 room 5016

7. Ellen Corbett fax 319-2118 room 4126

8. Lou Correa fax 319-2169 room 6025

9. Lynn Daucher fax 319-2172 room 4167

10. Jackie Goldberg fax 319-2145 room 5155

11. Abel Maldonado fax 319-2133 room 4015

12. Robert Pacheco fax 319-2160 room 4177

13. Lou Papan fax 319-2119 room 3173

14. Gloria Romero fax 319-2125 room 2117

15. George runner fax 319-2136 room 6027

16. Kevin Shelley fax 319-2112 room 319

17. Joe simitian fax 319-2121 room 5119

18. Helen Thomson fax 319-2108 room 6005

19. Herb Wesson fax 319-2147 room 3013

20. Pat Wiggins fax 319-2107 room 4016

21. Roderick Wright fax 319-2148 room 6012

22. Charlene Zettel fax 319-2175 room 5164

Remember, their addresses would be:

Assemblymember---California State Capitol Building

Sacramento, CA. 95814 fax 319-2169 room 6025






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