Segway PTs take centre stage in “New Christchurch”

A Segway Personal Transporter (PT) takes centre stage in an artist’s impression of the new “pop-up” Christchurch Mall set to open at the end of October 2011. This image has already appeared several times on national TV news programs and in other media as part of illustrating this initiative to get visitors to return to the Red Zone of the Christchurch CBD that was heavily damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Twenty seven converted shipping containers located on the site of demolished buildings in Cashel Mall are to provide temporary retail space for businesses.

Segway PTs have been a common site in central Christchurch since 2005, when Urban Wheels began selling and hiring PTs, running corporate and group activities, and offering highly rated Segway Tours through Hagley Park and the historic parts of town. International visitors and travel writers claim this tour to be one of the highlights of visiting the city. For example, Trip Advisor currently rates the excursion in Christchurch’s top 5 tours. Since the earthquakes, owner Graeme Gordon has reworked the route to exclude the closed-off part of the city.

Christchurch is particularly well suited to Segway PT use, and it is no surprise the city has the second-highest number of private Segway PT owners in New Zealand. Individuals are often seen commuting to work on PTs, or out exploring all that the Canterbury region offers.

That the artist’s impression of the “New Christchurch” prominently features a Segway PT is indicative of a city that has already embraced 21st century transportation solutions in its core philosophy. Perhaps it is no surprise that the Yike Bike and Martin Jet Pack were both invented here, rather than anywhere else in New Zealand (or around the world). Your can read about Segway NZ managing director Philip Bendall’s experience of riding/flying both of these inventions here (as well as walking in the Rex Bionics Exoskeleton).

The new city layout is destined to be more pedestrian-friendly than old, with more people/vehicle shared spaces, extended tram lines, and possibly light rail. The Segway PT is designed to use existing transport infrastructure (footpaths, bike lanes, roads) and excels at providing people with convenient primary transport for journeys of up to 5 to 8 km. It is also ideal for covering that “last mile.” That is, the Segway PT is a quick, efficient way to travel the last mile from home-to-rail station, and then from station-to-workplace. The time and effort involved transversing that last mile is a key factor in discouraging individuals from choosing public over private transport, and the Segway PT offers a solution that is attractive to a wide range of people.

There is also the opportunity for Christchurch to consider extended dedicated corridors for zero-emission vehicles (pedal bikes, electric bikes, Yike Bikes, stand-on in-line scooters, Segway PTs, etc) that have few crossings with lanes carrying motorbikes, cars, buses and trucks. Segway New Zealand has calculated that the transit time riding a PT along a dedicated corridor between the CBD and Canterbury University is about 10 minutes – considerably faster than light rail that stops multiple times along the same route. Moreover, the cost of moving say, 1,000 people per hour on a fleet of hireable Segway PTs, is about 1/100th of the cost to build and subsidise light rail. This same corridor could be used by semi-autonomous vehicles such as the General Motors EN-V that carries two people at a time, and is based on Segway Inc.’s Smart Motion self-balancing technologies. For more about the EN-V, start with our recent coverage here then round out your knowledge here and here. Small, lightweight personal transportation solutions such as the PT and EN-V are blurring the line between traditional concepts of private and public transport for journeys over relatively short distances.

UPDATE 3 October 2011: According to the Christchurch i-Site website, this project – now named Re:Start – is on schedule to open at the end of this month. Find the latest details here about the many stores opening “container shops.”

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