Segwaying Your Way Through The World - My Family Travels

Introducing kids to two-wheeled electric sightseeing aboard the innovative Segway personal transporter is a pleasure for adults, too.

While in Paris last year, my family rented bikes for a leisurely biking tour through that magical city.  At the rental shop, we were struck with a massive attack of Segway Envy as we watched other families roll away from the rental shop for their guided tour aboard an electric Segway PT (personal transporter). 

We enjoyed our guided bike tour enormously, but kept longing for a chance to mount those mysterious, odd-looking machines.  Later in our European trip, while walking through Seville, Spain, we happened upon a Segway dealer offering Segway tours of the city.  We jumped at the chance and embarked upon one of the highlights of our vacation.

As the world begins to accept “An Inconvenient Truth,” these rechargeable battery-powered transporters are enjoying the environmentally-correct spotlight. Segway Inc. claims that if just 10% of America’s 900 million daily car trips up to 3-miles-long were done with a Segway PT, consumers could save 6.2 million gallons of gas and emit 286 million fewer pounds of CO2!

Training Is A Safety Essential

Just a half-hour lesson in the ways of Segways reveals the magic of the machine.  In Seville, we quickly learned the delicate nuances of body language that guide this thoroughbred through its paces. 

Through a complex gyroscopically stabilized system, the tiniest leaning motion — forward or back — motivates forward or backward motion or stops.  Our models had a switch on the handlebar that controlled turns, but newer models depend on right or left leaning.  Most consumer models used on tours will run at 6mph, though the machine’s maximum speed can reach 12 mph.

Expanding Horizons for Many Travelers

The Segway is a magnificent invention—a machine so intuitive that it almost feels like an extension of your nervous system.  It provides a fun and novel way to see certain cities, although it does cut out the exercise element of a good walking tour. The personal transporter’s safety record is very impressive and most municipalities have restricted their use to sidewalks or bicycle lanes, minimizing the contact with other motorized traffic. In fact, many cities are experimenting with Segways for their police or postal workers, bringing these formerly rare vehicles to peoples’ attention.

For families, the Segway provides a new way of sightseeing, one the kids will probably adore.  There are some age thresholds; however standards are inconsistent.  The official Segway Inc. party line maintains a minimum age of 16.  However, local dealers utilize different standards, ranging from age 11 and up, but with a weight minimum of 70-75 pounds.  That seems to be the minimum weight needed for the machine to recognize its signals.  Call ahead to establish the guidelines if you’re interested in booking a tour of your new locale.

Perhaps most importantly to families, people with walking difficulties or other disabilities will find new worlds open to them. In Seville, we saw firsthand how the system’s balloon tires enabled elderly sightseers who shunned uneven cobblestone streets to tour historic areas at will.

Details, Details

A listing of official Segway Authorized Tours can be found on their website,  As of early 2008, these are found in diverse locations, including Washington D.C., Nashville, Chicago, Portland, San Franciso, and many more.  Some golf courses are offering the latest grass-friendly model to tote your clubs around; even Walt Disney World in Orlando offers tours on them. 

International travelers can find Segway tours in many foreign countries as well, including Israel, Spain, France, Mexico, Australia and the Bahamas.  Prices range from US$60, depending on the length of the tour.

Almost all tours are guided and preceded by at least a half-hour training session.  Not all tours are Segway Authorized, so you’ll need to scrutinize the one offered to you to make sure it’s safely run and provides adequate instruction, especially for your younger “drivers.”

Have fun!

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