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:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.