Little People Movers Tested
N class=Byline>By DENNIS M. BLANK
CELEBRATION -- If the Segway could be said to have a natural habitat, it might be here in Celebration.
The city, near Orlando, was planned by the Walt Disney Co. as a nouveau hometown with broad sidewalks filled with the relatively well-to-do. Residents here are also environmentally conscious; 300 own electric cars.
Sure enough, Celebration is now a test market for Segway Human Transporters, people movers that are powered by a battery, balanced by gyroscopes and look something like pogo sticks on wheels. The machines will be available nationwide in March, but people here who agree to answer the company's email messages and questionnaires for a year may buy Segways early and receive a $2,000 refund on the $4,950 price.
"We want to know how the actual owners use it in their everyday life," said Morgan Smith, brand manager for Segway of Manchester, N.H. "Whether it is saving time or helping them get to and from work or running errands during their lunch hour or just getting outside to see people."
That is just how Pete and Anne Crow use their new Segways. The couple, in their 60s, were bobbing and weaving down the sidewalks, judiciously avoiding pedestrians.
Segways use an adjustable handle with a steering mechanism and are very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that Larry Johnson, 52, ran over his dog's tail. "She didn't hear it coming," Johnson said.
That particular feature won the Segway strong opposition in another green-leaning city, San Francisco. In January the Board of Supervisors banned it.
"Segways themselves did not have adequate safety features to alert people they might be behind them," said Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco supervisor.
Carla M. Vallone, a Segway spokeswoman, said, "We were disappointed in their decision, but 33 states have passed legislation that allows these human transporter vehicles on sidewalks."
Some users in Celebration already have plans for their Segways. Murial Horgan, 48, works for a company that holds trade shows.
"I figured out I walk eight to nine miles a day in order to get around at large conventions," Horgan said. "With my Segway I can get there more quickly and efficiently and probably not expel so much energy."
Some critics fear that the Segway will make Americans even more sedentary. But that has not happened to the Crows just yet. They ride bicycles for exercise and use Segways to get around town.
"This is fun to drive," Crow said. "You gradually become one with the machine. There is an intuitiveness. You lean forward and it is like skiing or riding in your car. You don't have to think."
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