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Segway: safer than you think

In response to the Feb. 21 Perspectives column by Charles Cooper, "Segway: Cool gadget, dumb idea":

I found your column interesting as I used to share the same thoughts about accidents and road conditions before learning more about the Segway.

The road conditions don't matter: They handle extremely well on steep hills in wet (Seattle), sandy (Phoenix/Tucson), and even ice and snow (Boston). I've seen the things go down steep sandy embankments while riders stay upright. I've seen them zip up sidewalks that were covered with ice. No tires slipped; it was amazing!

Even if you run full speed into someone, at a whopping 12.5 mph, which isn't likely on a busy sidewalk, the handlebar will hit the person first, causing the Segway to upright itself and making it stop faster than anyone on a bike or skateboard or even a fast jogger ever could. Again, even at 12.5 mph this isn't a big deal.

If you run over someone's foot, it doesn't hurt--the tires are wide enough that no damage will be done. Take your weight, divide it by half, and add 40 pounds for half the weight of a Segway. For me, that's a total 115 pounds over a wide tire surface. In the training classes, they sometimes have you hold your foot out while they run over it to show you that it's not a big deal at all.

The Segway's price sounds steep, but look at the technology in it. Compare it to the cost of a nice television that you might watch 30 minutes a day, or a Powerbook you might use an hour or two a day. Compare it against the money you'd save by getting rid of one car in a two-car household.

Lastly, think globally. While you may think (the Segway) is silly here, think of Europe and Asia. In Asia, everyone has moved from bicycles to motorcycles that have no pollution control; motorcycles that take up five times more room than a Segway. Motorcycles that are harder to control and more expensive to operate and maintain. There are over 4 billion people in Asia and India. If we could get rid of a small percentage of smog-belching motorcycles, we'd make a difference in global pollution. One motorcycle without smog control spews more pollution in two hours of driving than a Honda Accord does driving from Los Angeles to New York and back.

Ben Bethel
Phoenix, Ariz.