A great day for public safety in NZ

UPDATED 20 November

Police in Taupo have become the first in New Zealand to deploy Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) to improve public safety.

Taupo Moana Rotary Club, Inc. have funded the purchase of two Segway i2 Patroller units for use by Taupo Police. This initiative is supported by the Taupo District Council and Mayor Rick Cooper as an effective and practical way to visibly increase police presence in this busy tourist town.

Summer swells the populations of towns such as Taupo, stretching the resources of police and other organisations involved in public safety. Segway PTs are a very effective way to enable existing staff to do more. Segway New Zealand congratulates all of the parties involved for working together to bring this project to fruition.

Putting Police officers onto Segway PTs has already proven very successful in other countries. In the US more than 650 Police Departments have deployed Segway PTs in downtown precincts, at transit stations, in parks and along beaches. Authorities in almost all European and many Asian nations have also been rolling out PTs in increasing numbers, and they are a common site in tourist areas and cities in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Additionally, more than 100 major airports are patrolled with officers on PTs. Of the more-than 55,000 PTs sold to date, about a fifth are being used for patrol.

The quiet, maneuverable, zero-emission Segway PT enables officers to easily cover three times the distance in the same time compared with walking. Just two officers on PTs can patrol the same area in the same time as nine officers on foot. The Segway Patroller models have been designed to help officers stand out and be seen, while at the same time they see further from an elevated position above the crowd. A large front bag enables more safety equipment to be carried at all times. The unique benefits that only the self-balancing PT offers for patrolling are now well-established and widely recognised.

Where PTs have already been deployed by private security firms at Universities, malls and corporate sites around New Zealand the benefits have been immediate. Increased presence and reduced response times have quashed car park crime, professional shoplifters have been apprehended, nuisance activities such as graffiti curbed, and assistance provided to the public more readily (see our local Case Studies for details on these stories and more).

The Segway PT has been carefully assessed in safety studies conducted by government and independent agencies in many countries. All have concluded that the PT is both safe and appropriate for use in busy pedestrian environments, and also in spaces where bicycles are allowed.

Segway New Zealand’s White Paper “The Segway Personal Transporter in New Zealand” is available by emailing us. It introduces the device and its underlying technology, describes how the PT is used and regulated in other countries, and why it meets the mobility device classification here in New Zealand (and therefore exempted from the definition of a motor vehicle.

Any person in New Zealand may operate a Segway PT under the rules applicable mobility devices. These include to ride on the footpath whenever one is present and is readily accessible, to ride at a speed that is not hazardous to others, and to always give way to and be courteous to pedestrians. Otherwise, to ride along the edge of the road and obey the road rules applicable to motor vehicles. These are equivalent to the rider rules that apply to Segway PT users in almost all states in USA, and in almost all countries in the EU (additionally, in many of these places a user also has the choice to ride in cycle lanes and along the edge of urban roads).

New Zealand’s legal definition of a mobility device applies to a vehicle “….designed and constructed (not merely adapted) for use by persons who require mobility assistance due to physical or neurological impairment.” The Segway PT meets this criteria for reasons that include:

(i) patents have been accepted in New Zealand for the self-balancing two-wheeled “Segway PT” device that specifically identify mobility assistance as a purpose and capability of the invention. Included therein is a specific example of how this invention was used by a person with Parkinson’s Disease, and benefits and health improvements that resulted. Accordingly, in our view, it is correct to assert that the Segway PT is designed and constructed to provide mobility assistance for impaired persons.
(ii) as recently as 2009 Segway, Inc. confirmed in a media release that it incorporated concepts of Universal Design into the Segway PT so that people, “whether disabled or not” can use and benefit from this device. Universal Design is to the solution that produces products that are useable and effective for everyone, not just for people with disabilities. The philosophy is to design a particular solution to be suitable for impaired persons in the first instance, and subsequently for non-impaired persons also. During development of the PT, as part of the process of incorporating Universal Design, new technologies were developed and associated  patents were obtained. Accordingly, in our view, if a personal transportation device has been consciously designed and constructed to Universal Design criteria then it has been designed and constructed to provide mobility assistance to impaired persons, and this is the case with the Segway PT.
(iii) while developing the current legislation, the New Zealand Government published a report that it intended for a wider range of devices than an “invalid carriage” and “disabled persons vehicle” to be permitted by the new definition, and the term “impaired” is a wider definition that “disabled”. There is no implied bias in the current definition that excludes the Segway PT.
(iv) the Segway PT has been assessed by scientific and medical publications, and by health and medical professionals worldwide, and found to be a suitable (and in many cases superior) mobility solution for persons with a wide range of impairments.
(v) that a significant number of mobility impaired persons in New Zealand, and many thousands more around the world, successfully use unmodified Segway PTs every day for mobility assistance as their preferred solution over traditional mobility scooters. Because it fulfills this role very well, it follows that the Segway PT is designed and constructed for this purpose.
The Segway PT has a maximum continuous power output of 750W, and this is the proper measure for assessment with respect to the maximum output prescribed for mobility devices (1,500W).

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