Working on the Waterfront

The NZ International Arts Festival starts in Wellington this Friday, and the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) is playing a key productivity role in transforming the waterfront on time.

FESTIVAL WORK: Nick Kyle uses a segway to commute between festival venues along the waterfront.

The biggest challenge for this year’s festival is having three outdoor sites – and making sure everything is ready in time, festival technical manager Nick Kyle says. He uses a Segway PT to commute between sites.

The Segway PT has become an essential productivity tool at events throughout New Zealand. Last year, PTs were used at many venues during the Rugby World Cup, including at The Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront and by Auckland Transport. Our Segway New Zealand News archives are packed with stories like these about organisations and businesses benefiting from Segway PTs – search through our articles today and find out more (try looking up terms like Lantern Festival, Balloons Over Waikato, Airshow, trade show, traffic management, event management….)


First “Segway law” passed 10 years ago today in USA

The Segway Personal Transporter (PT) was unveiled more than a decade ago. Just two months later the world’s first new law defining and regulating the worlds first self-balancing ‘human transporter’ was passed. Within just a few years, more than 50 more jurisdictions would follow.

New Hampshire, USA was first to create a vehicle category called an Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD). The US Federal government had already decided that this type of small, electric personal transporter would not be considered to be nor regulated as a motor vehicle (which is the category used for cars, motorbikes, scooters, trucks, etc). This enabled each US state to regulate this type of vehicle as a consumer electronics device that would be required to meet their EPAMD laws when used on public roads, footpaths, beaches, parks and trails. EPAMD laws generally do not apply to use on private property or on federal property.

Dozens more US states passed EPAMD over the next two to three years, and today almost every US state has done so (here is a list with links to each state’s legislation). Numerous other jurisdictions worldwide have codified EPAMD-type devices into their transport laws – particularly across the European Union. The UK is the ‘odd man out’ in that part of the world, where the ~200 year old 1835 Highways Act currently prevents their use by UK citizens on roads and footpaths there. Ironically, a visitor from the EU who brings their EU-legal Segway PT to the UK is permitted to use it.

More recently, the US Federal government has classified the Segway PT as a mobility device under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so disabled users in every state can use a Segway PT for mobility (even if that state does not have an EPAMD law). Provinces in Canada and various EU nations have also identified the benefits of the Segway PT for use by disabled persons, and have made special provisions.

Auckland in Fifty Years

(or, Predicting the Future: Part 1)

Here is a way to predict what the future is going to look like:

  • start with things as they are today, then dream up sleeker and more advanced versions of what we already have.

This is the city of Auckland, New Zealand, fifty years into the future….as imagined in 1956 by Bernard Roundhill (image from Idealogue magazine October 2006/Te Papa Museum of New Zealand):

Fifty years on, lets see how Bernard’s predictions for Auckland panned out.

(1) Tall buildings and jet planes: CHECK (although passenger planes don’t have canard wings – not even the enormous double-decker Airbus A380)

(2) Milk trucks: CHECK (but the Dairy Board is but a distant memory)

(3) Pedestrians, flanked by cars, buses, and trucks speeding along motorways: CHECK

(4) a subway (or is it a rail loop under Queen Street?), and the quaintly named ‘Aerial Tramways’ (or monorails, as we’d call them today): NEITHER

But observe what is missing from this vision of the future:

  • there are no bicycles, no motorcycles and no self-balancing, non-tandem two-wheeled transporters that carry one person (or Segway Personal Transporters, as we call them today). Not one.

As Idealogue observes, apart from the company Winsone (who commissioned the work), the Auckland of the future “looks regulated….the Milk Board, the Passenger Transport Service, the Aerial Tramways. Branding is absent and there’s not a billboard in sight. Good luck finding a decent coffee.”

Such visions of the future are often all the more extraordinary for what they fail to predict than for what they get right. In Part 2 and Part 3 of this series we’ll consider more recent predictions about the future of people-moving, particularly as how they may relate to New Zealand.


The New Zealand Herald published the following obituary about Bernard Roundhill (1911-2005):

Bernard Roundhill, commercial artist, air-brushing pioneer. Died age 94.

Bernard Roundhill, prolific New Zealand commercial artist whose most celebrated design was the Air New Zealand koru, has died aged 94.

His career spanned seven decades, with creations ranging from chocolate boxes to album covers and the koru motif, which first appeared on the airline’s DC-10s in 1973.

Roundhill was the New Zealand pioneer of air-brushing, which took him seven years to perfect.

His career began in Fairlie, South Canterbury, painting demons and heroes on velvet during the Depression. After moving to Timaru he designed shop window signs, price tags and jewellers’ cards.

During World War II he drew maps for the Army and illustrated instruction manuals for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. After the war Roundhill began illustrating magazine covers and calendars.

A major contract was for the redesign of the entire range of Yates seed packets.


Come the year 2100, perhaps life in Auckland will look a bit like this illustration:

IMG_5529 (1)
A home-made wall clock that counted down the days, minutes and seconds until midnight 1999 (or midnight 2000, if you prefer) featuring the cover art from Al Stewart’s ‘Last Days of the Century’ album (1988).

NZ Herald article misrepresents Segway safety

Yesterday’s NZ Herald featured an article about how staff at Auckland Real Estate business James Law Reality are using a pair of Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) to get between appointments on time. Sadly, the Herald misrepresented a number of issues regarding the safety of Segway PTs and inaccurately reported a number of facts. We take this opportunity to address each of these issues below.

But first, here are some positive excerpts from the article. These demonstrate how an Auckland business is benefiting from the massive increases in staff productivity that only Segway PTs can provide.

“The CBD traffic is a nightmare and finding a parking in the inner city is an even bigger nightmare,” said Mr Law. Not only can agents get to clients faster, it removes their worries about parking infringements if meetings laster longer than expected.

“With the Auckland Council plans of having more footpaths and making driving more difficult, it makes business sense that we find an alternative means to get around,” Mr Law said. “We decided on Segways because they are environmentally friendly, and can be used on all terrains, from roads to sidewalks.”

The Auckland draft masterplan revealed city planners wanting to reduce the 34,385 vehicles that come into the inner city each weekday…plans to do that include malling parts of Queen St and having more walking paths and “shared spaces” similar to Elliot St.

This photo is from the NZ Herald (taken by Greg Bowker)

We now address the parts of the NZ Herald article where they got it a bit wrong. In fact, certain key elements of the story were so inaccurate and/or misleading that we find it extraordinary that they ever got past fact-checking and the watching eye of a newspaper Editor such that they made it into print in New Zealand’s largest daily newspaper.

Here’s what they got wrong, and the facts behind each bullet point in the Herald’s sensational “Segway Danger” sidebar.

1. Regarding George W. Bush’s “famous fall” from a Segway PT – what actually happened is that Bush tumbled over the front of a stationary, deactivated Segway PT when he stepped up onto it. The Segway PT’s ability to self-balance on two wheels is something quite extraordinary to experience, but the device does need to be turned on to work its magic!

It would have been easy for the Herald to check its facts before erroneously claiming Bush “…fell off a Segway at a high-powered meeting.” As reported correctly by the BBC: “The machine went down when he stepped onto it at his family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, but he managed to leap to safety, landing on his feet.” An incident that didn’t result in any kind of injury (except perhaps to pride) while on holiday at the family property doesn’t read as quite as an exciting DANGER as “a fall while at a high powered meeting” but at least it is the truth.

2. The death of Segway company owner and philanthropist Jimi Heselden was a tragic accident, yet the Herald chose to report it sensationally as: “[He] died while riding a Segway that plunged off a cliff.”

The findings of the UK coroner last year were that Jimi died when he accidentally backed up too far to the edge the cliff, after stopping and moving politely to make way for a person running their dog on a leash towards him. We covered the story with accuracy in our report ‘Politeness found as cause of Jimi Heselden’s tragic accident‘ that references an original article published by the Mirror newspaper in the UK. Unlike the Herald, we weren’t so insensitive as to speak of plunging death under these circumstances.

3. Yes, it is both amusing and true that someone fell off a Segway PT that had been modified to carry a television camera at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last year. But it was not cricket commentator Ian Healy as claimed by the Herald, and no one got hurt at all. Here’s what really happened (as we reported here – includes link to the video clip of the fall):

Yesterday, Australian cameraman Joe Previtera was filming at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He was gliding through the oval filming to live TV when he failed to see a cricket helmet that had been left on the ground. The turf tyre fitted to his customised Segway x2 hit and rode up over the helmet, spilling him on the ground (link includes video) – much to the amusement of the audience both at the MCG and worldwide watching on TV. The Segway PT was undamaged, the rider unhurt, but a part on the SteadyCam mount needed minor repairs. It is fair to say that, in the course of doing his job, he made the reasonable assumption that the oval would be free of obstacles and had all of his attention concentrated down the viewfinder. An experienced Segway PT rider can ride up and over a “bump” of this size as long as they see it coming. They anticipate how the PT will react and bend their knees and shift their weight accordingly. Segway PTs are used in the television and movie industry as quick, convenient “camera dollies’” capable of capturing a wide variety of shots and angles no other single method can achieve.

We say this real story does not belong under the Herald’s heading “Segway Danger” and we say the paper should take the effort to be a bit more honest to its readers in terms of editorial style in future. Even a cameraman walking with his eye glued to the viewfinder would likely have tripped and fallen had he stepped on a cricket helmet when he reasonably expected the path of his tracking shot to be clear of obstacles. In terms of funny workplace accidents it made for great TV and a popular YouTube clip, but tacking it onto a story about Real Estate agents commuting around town is drawing a long bow.

4. It was correct to report that an American was recently awarded $10 million by jury for an accident involving a Segway PT where the rider fell and hit his head, resulting in a brain injury, but it is well-known the US system of finding fault and awarding damages for medical injuries often results in unexpected and extraordinary outcomes. It strikes us as unfair not to include a little bit of context and some key facts about the circumstances of this accident: the rider John Ezzo intentionally covered his face by putting his hooded sweatshirt on backwards and pulling it up to ride the Segway PT blindfolded, and he was not wearing a helmet.  In this case, it seems the jury appeared to overlook the importance of personal responsibility when operating a transportation device.

Here at Segway New Zealand we encourage riders to always use good judgement, and to be familiar with and follow the safety recommendations set out in the User Materials and Safety Video. You can review all of these online at

5. The main Herald story stated “A United States study in 2010 found Segway scooters responsible for increasing the number of accidents.” It appears this was simply a lazy lifting of the headline from UK newspaper The Telegraph and presenting it in a way that blatant misrepresents the findings of the study (hint: it does not claim Segway PTs are responsible for increasing the number of accidents that occur at all – but then you’ve probably guessed that already).

The sub-heading of this Telegraph story does reveal the study discovered a somewhat obvious fact: that “Accidents involving Segway scooters are on the increase” as the total number of Segway PTs in use increases (in the same way as the number of people having accidents in motorcars in 2012 is higher than in 1912).

US media offered better quality reporting of this study conducted by researcher Dr Mary Pat McKay. She assessed accident reports of 41 people admitted to a hospital in Washington, DC. – most were novices and only 3 were wearing helmets (which are not required by law under the rules for Segway PT use in Washington, D.C. but are recommended under most circumstances).

“All of the injuries were sustained by riders simply falling off, mostly from striking an inanimate object such as a bench, tree or pole,” she said, and urged riders to “….pay close attention to what is in front of and around them when riding.”

That is, watch where you’re going.

Which is exactly the same advice we give to people using every other transportation device – cars and bikes, mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs, skates and skis, boats and planes.

Incredibly, the Herald makes no mention of the many safety studies that demonstrate and conclude the Segway PT to be a safe, stable device suitable for use by persons with normal mobility and also those who are mobility impaired – and entirely appropriate for use in busy pedestrian spaces, and also in bicycle lanes and on urban roads. Six of these studies can be found here.

Superbowl Segway PTs, Auckland Lantern Festival, Tauranga AirShow

While Kiwis enjoyed a Waitangi Day Long Weekend, America was enjoying the annual Superbowl. Again this year the American Automobile Association deployed staff on Segway Personal Transporters (PTs). The AAA’s ‘Green Team’ were on hand to quickly get to and assist motorists with problems at the stadium grounds – flat tyres, lockouts, flat batteries and more. Elsewhere in the City of Indiana, local police were on Segway Patroller models delivering enhanced service and improved public safety. Visitors can take a Segway Tour along the historical canal that runs through the heart of the city.

Only the Segway PT can transport a person quickly and safely through busy crowds and tight spaces (such as the gap between parked cars). This is because the Segway PT was designed to be safe, effective and appropriate for use in busy pedestrian spaces. It is the Segway PTs unique set of features and design elements that set it apart from bicycles, scooters, motorbikes, quad bikes, golf carts and other options that don’t come close to the capabilities of the Segway PT in these types of environments. For example, the rider can stand still on the stable, self-balancing platform while interacting with the public. The ‘footprint’ of the zero-emission Segway PT is about the same size as a person, and it can turn on the spot. Large wheels enable the PT to navigate a wide variety of terrain with ease and comfort (an important criteria during long shifts).

Every year since 2004 in New Zealand dozens of events have been deploying management staff, medical staff and traffic management. For example, from Tuesday last week until the end of the Lantern Festival on Sunday night, Auckland City Council’s event manager used a Segway Patroller to get around Albert Park. This is the third year in a row Council staff have used a Segway PT at this event.

Just the week before, 10 Segway PTs were deployed at the two-day Tauranga AirShow with security, traffic management and event staff. Next month Segway PTs will again be a key tool at Balloons Over Waikato. All of these shows learned the value of Segway PTs years ago, and have used them every year since (find our previous stories in our Achieves, including the Airshow here, and Balloons here and here). Or search “emergency” to see our stories on Auckland’s St John and businesses like Ambulance EMT who deploy staff on Segway PTs at events such as Big Day Out, Auckland Home Show, the Waikato Home & Garden Show and many more.

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