Gleich loves his Segway.
the fact that I am not trapped in a train,” says the Brooklyn
native. He has been using his Segway for the past two years
to traverse a 15-mile commute to work. “I love that I am out
in the air. I am out in the sun.”
are always curious people, he says, peppering him with the
same questions over and over. Gleich eats it up.
are shy, the Segway is not a thing for you,” Gleich continues.
“It is the ultimate conversation starter.”
an attention whore,” he admits. “I love attention.”
made the trip nearly 200 times, and every time he has broken
enthusiasm, though passionate in the hearts of a few, is not
a widespread phenomenon. There are only 100 of the conveyances
in New York City. There are probably many more than that in
the entire state, but I haven’t checked the numbers. One local
politician used to park one in his Troy corner office a few
years ago, so that makes at least 101.
are kinda neat, mildly exciting, but for me the “wow” factor
wore off pretty quickly. The science behind them isn’t all
that complicated. College kids and bored engineers have been
rigging up their own DIY versions for years. Mostly these
self- balancing, two-wheeled conveyances are just goofy, “futuristic”
playthings of geeks and attention whores like Gleich.
there was little fanfare when Gov. Eliot Spitzer vetoed legislation
that would have allowed Segways onto public streets and sidewalks.
No public outcry. No media backlash. The Segway lobby proves
to be not so very formidable. What was noticeable, however,
and worth getting worked up about, was the sanctimonious applause
that followed from the activist section of the crowd.
concern put forward by transportation activists is that by
allowing Segways onto sidewalks that state would be endangering
pedestrians. But this argument is simply erroneous. The legislation
Spitzer vetoed would have left it to individual municipalities
to decide where Segways would be allowed to roll. A suburban
community might have chosen to allow them on sidewalks. Cities,
such as Manhattan, might have chosen otherwise.
concern, one that transportation activists share with health
and environmental advocates, is that, by allowing another
unnecessary motorized vehicle onto the streets, we will just
be enabling fat, lazy American loathing of physical exercise.
bill is about providing people with an alternative to walking,”
the American Lung Association’s Michael Seilback reportedly
argument, as well, rings hollow. How does anyone know that
by legalizing these vehicles people will walk less? How is
this an alternative to walking? It is easy to make that claim,
playing on the image of the portly computer geek riding his
Segway to Burger King or to the local comic-book store, but,
besides being mean spirited, it is intellectually dishonest.
By assuming that the same person, not afforded a Segway, would
chose to walk or ride a bike, the advocates are willfully
ignoring the reality that they probably just jump in their
problem with anti-Segway crowd’s logic is that this is not
a binary consideration. It is not an and-or situation. Modern
life demands diverse travel; 2,000-mile business trips and
two-mile Taco Bell emergencies flow together seamlessly. Our
options for vehicles ought to reflect this. Driving a car
from one city to another seems appropriate. All of that steel
and leather atop rubber propelled by petroleum makes sense.
That same machine to travel one mile to the grocery store
just to pick up some instant coffee is overkill to an absurd
degree. The tiny Segway, which demands $.15 worth of electricity
to travel 20 miles, by comparison seems like a remarkably
wise, and well-suited option.
of limiting people’s choices by refusing to “make legal” a
new technology, Spitzer should have recognized that a panoply
of vehicles, well-regulated by individual municipalities,
would have allowed modern New Yorkers the flexibility their
lifestyles demand. And activists would be better served finding
other ways to slim America down.
Gleich figures he will continue to break the law, even though
the law remains irritatingly vague.
a gray area,” he says. “It is even worse than a gray area.”
ticketed last year for riding his Segway, an unregistered
vehicle, on a public street. So he went to court and argued
that of course it is unregistered, he can’t register it. In
New York state, he says, the government views Segways, which
weigh 80 pounds and can travel at speeds up to 12.5 miles
per hour, in the same classification as motorized skateboards.
This means that they are not allowed on sidewalks, but must
be registered to be ridden on public streets.
do I register it if it is unregisterable?” he asks. “It is
a catch-22. I can’t register it, but I am ticketable.”
though, he isn’t caught in a catch-22. He could easily forgo
his treasured Segway. That wouldn’t mean he would start walking
the 15-mile commute, obviously. It means he would be relegated
back underground, to sit on a subway train for an hour.