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Lib Dem MP leads Segway protest

Lib Dem MP leads Segway protest
10 Sep 2008

Liberal Democrat MP, Lembit Opik, along with a number of his parliamentary peers, has led a protest outside of the Houses of Parliament urging the government to review its policy on the Segway PT (Personal Transporter) vehicle.

Opik, while riding his own Segway around London's streets, threw down a challenge to the government urging ministers to have him arrested or to accept the two-wheeler as a legal form of transportation. The MP said: "It seems ludicrous that such an environmentally friendly way of getting around has been dismissed by the British government" who, he claimed, have been `paralysed with indecision`."

There are currently around 2000 Segways in the UK, all of which, in theory, are used solely on private property, such as in shopping centres and airports. Opik commented: "On the one hand they (the government) say that the Segway PT isn't legal, on the other hand they are unable to point to a single scrap of evidence in British law to show why they should be banned."

In a recent article for the Guardian, the MP wrote: "There's no clear logical or safety-related reason to oppose such sensible technology. It's proven to be safe and efficient in hundreds of cities and towns, and even at Heathrow airport!"

While countries across Europe, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, have encouraged its use, Britain has lagged behind claiming that the safety implications are a concern and prohibit any change in policy. A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: "The Segway does not currently meet basic safety standards for use on UK roads - for example, an absence of lights and indicators, and the lack of a back-up braking system.

"The safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists is our primary concern... We would require robust evidence to support the benefits and further consideration of the risks posed to users and others before reviewing this policy."

While there seems to be a level of uncertainty about the suitability of the Segway amongst government departments, there can be little doubting its environmental credentials. Using the methodology of the journey emissions calculator, Travelfootprint.org finds that a Segway powered by a standard mix of electricity from the grid produces around 26 g/km of CO2, which is only 2g per km more than walking. It is also eight times less polluting than the average UK car.

The Segway PT has a range of 24 miles which is enough for the vast majority of commuters, and has a top speed of 12.5 miles per hour which, as Opik points out, is five mph faster than the average speed of London traffic.

BBC, Guardian