Injured US Vice-President was using a PT for mobility in 2003

A news item on BBC News from 27 May 2003 lamented how UK was being left behind by the Segway Revolution. The article lamented the difference in UK attitudes towards the Segway PT compared with USA and France (which was the first EU nation to actively embrace the PT, and was soon followed by Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy and shortly afterwards by almost every other member state). Eight years later, the UK still trails far behind the rest of the EU. Not only is it difficult to ascertain a good reason for this to be the case, UK citizens who are mobility impaired are missing out on the life-changing benefits of the PT and the economy is missing out on tourism revenue. For example, as of early 2011 there are reported to be more than 800 Segway Guided Tours worldwide through cities and around tourist sites – yet only a couple of these are in UK (where they operate on private property only). Compare this with New Zealand, where we have about a dozen businesses offering Segway Guided Tours and Short Rides.

Elsewhere in this same article it is reported how the then US Vice-President Dick Cheney was using a Segway PT to get around his office building when he had an Achilles tendon injury. This may make him the world’s earliest high-profile mobility user, and demonstrates the PT was being used for this purpose right from the start (the PT went on sale to public at the end of March 2003).

Why the Segway PT is a mobility device

Segway New Zealand is of the view that the Segway PT meets the definition of a ‘mobility device’ under New Zealand law. It is absolutely clear under the Land Transport Act that any person – whether disabled or not – is legally entitled to use any mobility device of their choice.

We believe that a ‘mobility device’ is the appropriate definition for the Segway PT at this time, for two reasons.

Firstly, it just makes sense. New Zealand’s rules for using a mobility device happen to be a subset of the rules already well-established for using Segway PTs in most other countries. While we’d like Segway PT users in New Zealand to have all of the same rights as people in most of North America and Europe do, what we have now is a good starting point. Here in NZ, users of mobility devices must ride at a speed that does not endanger others, always give way to pedestrians, and ride a footpath if one is present and accessible (otherwise along the edge of the road). Elsewhere around the world, riders of Segway PTs usually have the choice of the using footpath like a pedestrian, or riding in a bicycle lane or along the edge of the road with traffic.

Secondly, as of 2011 the majority of Segway PT users that you see out and about on New Zealand’s footpaths are mobility impaired – although you probably won’t realise this as they glide by (this is one of the many great benefits of the Segway PT compared with a mobility scooter or power chair). New Zealand has the highest per capita ownership of mobility scooters in the world – so it is little surprise we also have the highest per capita ownership of Segway PTs by persons who are mobility impaired. Kiwis love to get out and about and maintain their independence, and the Segway PT keeps us upright, strong and looking the world in the eye.

Other uses of the Segway PT you’ll see in New Zealand include tourists taking Guided Tours, security guards patrolling with three times the efficiency over being on foot, twice-as-efficient deliveries of mail and food, and a range of recreational pursuits. Of course, in many cases these individuals are on Segway PTs because they cannot physically pursue these jobs or enjoy these endeavors by walking.

Read our 4 page position paper Why the Segway PT is a Mobility Device in NZ (click the link to download, it is a.pdf file) and feel free to contact us with your questions (and for a list of references to the information, data and quotations found in this document).

UK a step behind with Segway PTs

UPDATED on 21 January 2011; UPDATED on 24 January 2011

A near-200 year old law is limiting the use of Segway PTs in UK.

Yesterday a district court judge ruled that a Segway PT is a “mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads” and therefore not permitted on footpaths under the 1835 Highways Act. The defendant seems likely to appeal, as this is the first case of its type in UK. While some news headlines have claimed that the Segway PT has been banned in UK, this is not correct. UK Police patrolling on Segway PTs appear to be able to patrol on Segway PTs wherever they like, including footpaths. Also, some reports suggest that if UK riders operate their PTs along the edge of the road obeying normal road rules they will not be stopped.

UPDATE 24 January 2011: The Telegraph reports that the UK Segway PT owner is going to appeal the decision to the High Court:

What is clear is that the UK is one very long step behind most of the modern world when it comes to accepting the Segway PT. The European Commission has exempted the Segway PT from its vehicle legislation, releasing it from regulations as a road vehicle. In 2003 the Chairman of the Transport Committee of the European Parliament invited all Member States to authorise explicitly the use of the Segway PT as soon as possible. With the exception of UK, all of the major EU states (Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Spain, as well as Sweden and Switzerland) permit the PT to used on footpaths, bicycle lanes and urban roads (or a subset of these). In USA, the Federal government exempted the PT from the motor vehicle classification in 2002, and the majority of states enabled their use on footpaths, cycle lanes, urban roads, parks and trails between 2002 and 2004 (by 2008 the total was 47 out of 50 states).

In New Zealand the Segway PT meets the definition of a mobility device (to be used on footpaths, if present, otherwise along the side of roads) because:

  1. it was designed and constructed to meet the needs of those requiring mobility assistance (not only does the PT incorporate Universal Design, the original patents identify this purpose and give examples – see this previous post), as well as being useful for other purposes.
  2. it is officially recognised as being suitable for this purpose (for example, it is explicitly specified as a mobility device by the US Federal government under the Americans with Disabilities Act)
  3. it is widely used for this purpose here and overseas (for example, in 2010 the owner of Segway, Inc. donated 1,000 Segway PTs to US Vets injured in overseas action)
  4. for locomotion, it has a maximum continuous power output of 750W

There are well over 100 mobility-impaired New Zealanders who use Segway PTs every day. Owners say Segway PTs are far superior to a traditional mobility scooter, and have dramatically improved their lives.

Paradoxically, Taupo Police have recently run into an issue regarding the use of their two Segway Patroller models due to some uncertainty as to how to interpret current legislation with respect to use by their officers. The Australian newspaper reports that Taupo’s Area Commander Inspector Steve Bullock remained optimistic the technicality could be sorted out and the Segways, which have proved popular with police in many US cities, could resume their place on the pavements of Taupo.

“I’m hopeful that they’ll be a tool of the future for the police, not just for Taupo but for all of us,” he said.

Big Day Out safer with medics on Segway PTs

This Friday up to 40,000 are expected to attend the Big Day Out music festival. Auckland’s St John was the first emergency response organisation in the southern hemisphere to deploy Segway PTs to achieve rapid response through big crowds, and more recently Waikato’s Ambulance EMS also added a PT to their range of vehicles. This will be the 6th year in a row that St John’s pair of specially equipped Segway PTs are helping make the Big Day Out safer for concert goers, as today’s NZ Herald reports:

“The organisation will have an army of 190 doctors, nurses, paramedics and volunteers at this year’s event. A field hospital, two portable medical units and a number of first aid posts to help keep people safe will be set up around the stadium.

There will be medically equipped golf carts and Segways as well as pedal-medic bikes to assist with moving among the crowd.”


Blog at

Up ↑