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Important Pedestrian Safety Alert Regarding the Segway Human Transporter!

Additional Issues with the Segway Human Transporter vehicle



Introduction by Charles Crawford of the American Council of the Blind

The following document was prepared by Jennifer Barrow of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) exploring the clear and immediate dangers to pedestrians arising from the national campaign to allow the use of the Segway in the pedestrian path of travel. ACB asks that you read the document carefully and make your opinion known to your federal Senators and Representatives as well as your Senator and Representative at your state house. There is no question that a strong campaign has been mounted by the makers of this product without sufficient regard to the safety of blind and other pedestrians.

You may reach your Federal Senators and Representative by calling their national offices through the federal switchboard number of (202)-224-3121 or by calling or visiting with them as they are currently home for the Congressional summer recess. Often your Senators and Representative will hold town meetings where you can bring up this issue. The federal legislation to allow the Segway on sidewalks and other pedestrian paths of travel is in the Senate S2024 and in the House HR1426.

Calling upon your elected Senator and Representative in your state capital is also important. Not only have the makers of the Segway pushed for federal legislation, but also are seeking to get the freedom to operate this device through local state laws.

In the end, the Segway may well have a good use and place in our environment, but it is clear from the following that insufficient attention is being paid to pedestrian safety and injuries and deaths are not the price we should be paying for innovation.

-- Charlie Crawford

Executive Director

American Council of the Blind.

Text of document.

Will the well being of innocent guide dogs and cane travelers be in jeopardy if the Segway gains the right to prowl our sidewalks and pedestrian walkways? Well, no one is quite sure because mums the word.

What is the Segway Human Transporter? The Segway HT is the first electric powered self-balancing scooter that remains upright through a persons center of gravity and other physical principals. Armed with a battery of gyroscopes and tilt censors, the Segway moves forward when its operator leans forward, and stops or backs up by reverse torque when he leans backwards. The operator of the Segway stands on a platform 8 inches off the ground, which spans the width between two parallel wheels, and holds on to handlebars. There are three models of Segway: two of which are designed for industrial and commercial applications, and the third is a personal transport model that will be available to consumers in late 2002. It is 21 inches wide, 16 inches long and weighs 69 pounds. Its maximum speed capacity of 20 mph is limited to 10 mph by a speed-governing key, which can be overridden. The average pedestrian walks at 3 mph. The two commercial models are slightly wider, longer, and heavier and are limited at 12.5 mph. Even though the personal consumer model is not yet on the market, legislatures around the nation are already anticipating its arrival with open arms and reckless haste.

Why should we as a community of people who are blind be concerned?

 The Segway Corporation has not yet provided the public with specific data from crash tests that demonstrate the resulting damage of a Segway-pedestrian collision.

Considering the Segways momentum, velocity and mass, what does simple common logic suggest? In addition, since the device is battery powered, only a vigilant and alert ear would perceive a Segways approach amid the hubbub of a city landscape. Despite the lack of adequate safety and crash test data, at least 26 states have already passed legislation that allows Segway on sidewalks.

Federal legislation:

There are currently two bills in Congress that concern Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices, which is the category that was coined to distinguish the Segway from other motorized vehicles thus exempting it from adherence to their regulations.

S. 2024, introduced by Sen. Smith (R-NH)- Title: A bill to amend title 23 of united states code to authorize use of Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device on trails and pedestrian walkways constructed or maintained with federal aid highway funds. The last major action was on 6/17/02 when it was passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee with no amendments and an amendment to the title.

It was placed on the Senate legislative calendar.

H.R. 1426, introduced by Rep. Bass (R-NH)- Title: To amend the consumer product safety Act to provide that low-speed electric personal assistive mobility devices are consumer products subject to that act. The latest action was on 4/16/01, when the bill was referred to the subcommittee of Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. This bill is highly industry motivated, as Rep. Bass had advanced knowledge of the Segway technology. Its goal is primarily intended to assist the corporation by reclassifying the device as a consumer product, thus removing it from the scrutiny of the National Highway Safety Transportation Authority (NHTSA.)

Admittedly, widespread public use of the Segway, if the trend catches on at all, remains many years away. However, in the meantime, one may see commercial Segways, plus the handful that the wealthy will purchase right away. It does not seem reasonable that the state and federal legislatures should rush and push through legislation without due pause to collect safety data and hear out potential concerns from people with disabilities, children's advocates and the elderly. Even though many States have already passed bills, it is still important that the Congressmen understand the concern of its constituents for the future. The other half of the union either has pending legislation, failed bills or no bills as of yet. It is important to communicate concerns to the federal Congress, but it is each local and State jurisdiction that decides what degree of freedom and regulations the Segway requires on locally and State funded property. Instead of waving the Segway through, the States should consider: Do they even belong on sidewalks? Should there be a sidewalk speed limit? Should helmets and reflectors be required? Should they make a sound to signal their approach? Do DUI laws apply? Perhaps a minimum age? How about licensure, registration and vision testing?

For more info, read the pending federal legislation and find out what's going on in your State. Also check out: 



The Children's Center of Injury Research and Policy

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals

Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center

Below is pasted poignant testimony given by Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH that was given before the Highways and Transportation Committee of the Ohio Senate in opposition to SB231. Accessed 8/1/02 at http://www.injurycenter.org/segway  then click download PDF.

Please note that ACB  does not endorse the use of PDF files since as in this case, we needed to print and scan the file to include it below rather than having been able to download an html or text document for that purpose.


Text of testimony.

Remarks Before the Highways and Transportation Committee

Ohio Senate

Regarding SB231
April 23, 2002
Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH

My name is Gary Smith and I am the Director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Childrens Hospital here in Columbus, where I am also a pediatric emergency medicine physician in the emergency department. I have been a pediatrician for 20 years, and most of that time I have worked in emergency departments and trauma centers of large childrens hospitals. I was the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Childrens Hospital for 8 years and was the Associate Director of the Trauma Program for approximately 7 years. I currently devote most of my professional time to research where my focus is on the epidemiology and prevention of injury, especially to children. I am chair of the Ohio Commission on the Prevention of Injury and chair of the Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I am also a member of the National Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I am here today representing the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Chairman Armbruster and members of the committee, I would first like to emphasize that I am not against the Segway device, nor are the child safety colleagues, whom I represent. Indeed, we believe that this is a truly innovative transportation device with clear advantages. It has the potential for facilitating safe transportation in appropriate settings under appropriate conditions. However, we oppose exempting the Segway or any electric personal assistive mobility device from existing laws covering similar modes of motorized conveyance without due consideration of the effect of thrusting it into the pedestrian arena. The fact that existing Ohio law reflects careful consideration of the requirements for safe operation of other similar means of motorized transport, such as a motorized bicycle, argues that the Segway should come under the same level of scrutiny. Chairman Armbruster and members of the committee, the Segway is a motorized vehicle. It doesn't matter whether the wheels are in tandem or side by side, whether it stops by friction brakes or reverse torque, or whether it accelerates by the use of a throttle or tilt sensors. I can call a chair a semi-erect posture supportive device, but it is still a chair. An electric personal assistive mobility device transports people using a motor for power. Therefore, it is clearly a motorized vehicle.

Further, the creation of an Oversight Committee to monitor the experience with the Segway device through the end of this calendar year, as provided for in HB5O1, the companion bill to SB23 fin the Ohio House of Representatives, is an in adequate answer to these safety concerns. These devices will not be introduced into the consumer marketplace until 2003. There simply will not be enough Segways in use, nor enough time in use, to gain enough experience to base any modifications of the law on observational data by years end. Because there will be little additional data and because the work of this legislature primarily occurs in its committees, now is the time to consider these safety issues and not delegate this task to an oversight group that will be asked to act on inadequate data by years end.

These devices travel at speeds of up to 12.5 mph, and other models that travel faster are under development. They weigh between 69 and 95 pounds, can carry a person weighing 250 pounds, and if appropriately adapted, can carry additional cargo. The example of 125 pounds of mail as cargo was cited by Mr. Rocky Black in his testimony in the House committee. These speeds are similar to those of a motorized bicycle, which is defined in Ohio Revised Code as being equipped with a helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of no greater than 20 mph on a level surface. The definition of an electric personal assistive mobility device in SB23 1 appears to most closely parallel that of a motorized bicycle in current Ohio statute, based on speed, weight, and motorized power.

Motorized bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks. Operators of motorized bicycles may be 14 or 15 years old if they have a probationary motorized bicycle license, or at least 16 years old with a motorized bicycle license or drivers license. They must pass a written test and also demonstrate their ability to operate and control a motorized bicycle to an examining officer to receive a motorized bicycle license.  This license must be renewed every 4 years. Operators younger than 18 years must wear a protective helmet and the motorized bicycle must be equipped with a rear- view mirror.  Ohio Revised Code also prohibits carrying a passenger on a motorized bicycle. Proponents of SB23 1 should provide evidence, beyond vague references to new, innovative, pre-market technology, indicating why these already existing, thoughtfully developed requirements for a similar human transporter should not also apply to the Segway device.

There are no minimum standards identified in SB23 1 that an individual must meet, in order to be an operator of one of these electric scooters. None! There are no licensing or test requirements. The bill allows operators of these electric scooters to travel on Ohio roadways where they must obey Ohio traffic laws, yet there is no requirement that operators pass a test to assure that they understand those laws, which is a requirement for operators of similar motorized vehicles on Ohio roadways. There is no requirement for operators younger than 18 years to wear a protective helmet. The Segway legislation in Georgia, which has passed both chambers of its legislature and awaits the governors signature, requires that all operators of the device, regardless of age, wear a helmet at all times.

There is no minimum age specified in SB23 1. Indeed, there is nothing in this legislation that would prevent a young child from operating one of these devices. Segway representatives have stated that they do not allow persons younger than 16 years to test drive the Segway devices during their demonstrations. It is troubling that the model legislation promoted by Segway is not consistent with its own company safety practices. SB23 1 must address minimum requirements for Segway scooter operators.

Pedestrian injuries are a major problem in the United States. There were 78,000 pedestrian injuries and 4,700 fatalities in the US in 2000. Pedestrian deaths and injuries disproportionately occur to individuals at the young and old ends of the age spectrum. Children are particularly vulnerable given their developmental immaturity, which is characterized by often impulsive behavior and poor judgment. Allowing motorized vehicles on the sidewalk will require children to negotiate motorized traffic, something they are developmentally incapable of doing. Using some basic assumptions, the calculated amount of force involved in a collision between a Segway device and a child can be significant and could easily cause serious injury. The purpose of a sidewalk is the separation of pedestrians from motorized traffic. This bill nullifies that effective and critical injury prevention strategy.  

Even if the Segway device were able to come to an abrupt halt from a speed of 12.5 mph, the operator will be thrown forward and into the pedestrian or other object that was struck based on the laws of Newtonian physics.  Individuals that speak to how quickly the Segway can stop are also forgetting that a young child can dart unexpectedly in front of one of these devices traveling at top speed with no time for the operator to react. A collision is inevitable and the laws of physics will prevail, and potentially, a significant energy transfer will occur to the pedestrian and also to the operator, resulting in injury. Segway representatives demonstrate a Segway riding over the top of a persons hand without injury; however, this is irrelevant to the real injury hazard of the device colliding head-on into a pedestrian.

It is troubling that the manufacturer has offered no data to support its safety claims. For example: they claim that a Segway is safer than a bicycle or skateboard, however, no injury data exist and no crash test data have been revealed.  

Demonstrations of collisions at low speed by a driver anticipating the impact are not adequate substitutes for scientific crash performance data. The Segway stops by reverse torque, which has been implied to be better than friction brakes.  However, no data on stopping distances have been provided. The Segway is as narrow as a person's should width and can spin in one spot.. This is irrelevant to crash avoidance. A bicycle and a skateboard are narrower than a Segway, and dynamic maneuverability is what matters, not static spinning. I have seen a Segway demonstrated, and even at low speeds, I am not impressed by its maneuverability. There are no data on Segways performance in a slalom test. Matthew Dailida, Manager of State Government Affairs for Segway, stated that the device will rise up on one wheel if it corners too quickly. Although the Segway has internal gyroscopes for stability, the driver of the device does not. And unlike other motor vehicles, the driver of the Segway is standing unrestrained, not sitting. The operators high center of gravity is likely to pull him/her off of the scooter in a quick turn. Data supporting manufacturer claims would be beneficial for Segway marketing and would alley concerns of safety experts.  In response to my inquiry, Matthew Dailida of Segway replied via e-mail on April 23, 2002. Data (are) in developmental stages and (are) unavailable (for) public consumption.

Our fascination and awe at the innovativeness and high-tech wizardry of these devices should not distract us from what we know from basic high school physics. Segway could easily submit its product for performance testing at an independent test facility, if it has not done so already, and make those results public. It is important to note that even though Ron Medford, a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) employee, is on paid sabbatical and working with Segway, the CPSC does not do pre-market testing of products and has not evaluated the Segways performance. In addition, contrary to the article in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Medford is not an engineer.

SB23 1 does not include a specification of standard equipment on the Segway device that would increase visibility at night. Instead, the law recommends that the operator or device be equipped with a lamp and a reflector.

The science of injury prevention indicates that building safety features directly into the design of a device will be more effective than expecting an operator to remember to take along and appropriately use safety equipment every time it is needed.

Mr. Matthew Dailida of Segway stated that the Segway device will benefit the health of Americans because it is non-polluting. Not only is this claim difficult, at best, to quantify, but it also ignores the important potential adverse impact of this scooter on exercise and obesity.  Lack of exercise and obesity are currently public health problems of epidemic proportions in our country with major health consequences.

Quoting from a Columbus Dispatch article on March 11, 2002, Page Cl: The company says the Segway is ideally suited for large-scale manufacturing plants and warehousing operations, travel and tourism, public safety, corporate and campus transportation, and mail, package and product delivery.  Given this large potential market, Ohio will not be left out of any transportation revolution heralded by this innovative device, regardless of whether SB231 passes or not.

Exempting the Segway or any electric personal assistive mobility device from existing Ohio laws covering similar modes of motorized transportation, such as the motorized bicycle, should not be done without real world evidence supporting such a dramatic change. Reassurances from manufacturer representatives and a brief demonstration of the product, without independent objective evaluation and data, are inadequate criteria for departure from current law that exists to protect both device operators and pedestrians. Children are a particularly vulnerable group to injury and deserve the full protection provided by our laws. Without further modification, this is not a good bill for Ohioans, and Ohio children in particular. The only clear beneficiary of this legislation is Segway.

Representatives from Segway claim that legislation similar to SB23 1 has sailed through other states without resistance. However, this has been largely due to a lack of awareness about the existence of the legislation, and not due to a lack of safety concerns. We are now seeing mounting resistance. Some states have voted down or tabled the legislation. Nationally, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumers Union, Public Interest Research Group, Consumer Federation of America, and others have expressed concerns regarding the Environment and Public Works Committee voting on S.2024 without hearings, given the existing un-addressed safety issues. In his letter to the Environment and Public Works Committee, Dr. Louis Z. Cooper, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, stated: Children, elderly individuals, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations cannot - and should not - be expected to negotiate motorized traffic on sidewalks, trails and other walkways.

Given the un-addressed safety concerns in the current legislation, those of us in the safety community are left regrettably with little choice but to oppose the passage of this bill as is currently written. The following organizations have taken a position against SB23 1 and HB5O1 as currently written: the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Ohio SAFE KIDS Coalition, Central Ohio SAFE KIDS Coalition, Ohio Chapter of the Emergency Nurses Association, Ohio Public Health Association, Ohio Society of Trauma Nurse Coordinators, Ohio Children's Hospitals Association, Children's Hospital of Columbus, and the Brain Injury Association of Ohio. We respectively request that the Committee not pass this bill as currently written. We would be happy to work with the authors and interested parties to develop a modified bill that will allow for the introduction of this new promising technology in a way that safeguards Ohioans, especially Ohio's children, against potential injury. In this manner, the potential exciting benefits offered by this revolutionary transportation device can be realized without unnecessary risk of preventable injury. Thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Revised May 7, 2002



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