Burlington to Consider Segway Tourism on the Bike Path
The city's Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled at its November 27 meeting to consider allowing recreational use of the battery-powered personal transportation devices on the 7.5-mile bike path. Adoption of such a policy could clear the way for the start of guided Segway tours next spring.
Rick Sharp (pictured), a 59-year-old attorney who was instrumental in the bike path's creation, has been trying for the past three years to win city approval for Segway tours he plans to operate on a commercial basis. Sharp expresses hope that the parks commission will support his initiative on at least a trial basis.
He's winning backing for his idea from some key figures.
Chapin Spencer, director of the pedestrian and bicycle advocacy group Local Motion, says he's in favor of giving Segways a trial run. "It would be a chance for [Sharp] to prove it works on the bike path and sidewalks," Spencer comments.
Kelly Devine, director of the Burlington Business Association, is also personally open to trial use of Segways downtown and along the lake. Devine emphasizes that she has not yet presented the issue to her group's board of directors.
The new city parks director likewise appears supportive of Sharp's proposal for a test of Segways' compatibility with other uses of the bike path. Jesse Bridges, now in his fourth week on the job, says there's little question that the city must accept Segway use by disabled persons. Sharp is himself disabled as a result of a paragliding accident several years ago.
Bridges adds that Sharp seemed to have addressed safety concerns in regard to recreational use during a Segway outing that the two recently took on the bike path.
For his part, Sharp remarks, "After three years of stonewalling, I'm thrilled that we actually have a parks director who returns emails and who is willing to experience a Segway first-hand."
Sketching his projected tour itinerary, Sharp says he would lead Segways along the downtown portion of the bike path and then up the sidewalk on College Street as far as the University of Vermont. The tour would then head down the Main Street sidewalk to the lake.
Sharp says state law allows use of Segways on sidewalks unless a municipality rules otherwise. And because Burlington has not done so, "we have a right to use the sidewalks," Sharp says. He notes, however, that he would not lead Segways onto the Church Street Marketplace unless invited to do so by overseers of the pedestrian mall.
Critical perspectives are also likely to be offered at the November 27 parks commission meeting.
Spencer notes that comments concerning the Segways-on-the-bike-path issue were split 45 in favor and 45 against when Local Motion posted a report on the proposal three years ago. One opponent responding then to a Seven Days query said the bike path is too crowded on weekends to permit safe use of Segways.
Novice users would be "accident-prone," charged critic Gerry Malavneda. Most Segway riders "would probably fit the definition of the Ugly Americans -- i.e., yahoos with too much money and body mass," Malavneda added.