Commentary

The Segway: Modern Ecothreat?

Forget global warming and water pollution…it seems that some New York environmentalists have found a new ecothreat worthy of their ire: the Segway scooter!

A bill that would define the Segway Human Transporter as an “electric personal assistive mobility device,” rather than a motorized vehicle, is advancing swiftly through the State Legislature, a place that has historically loved to dabble in even the most arcane local matters. . . . . The measure in Albany would permit disabled people to use Segways on sidewalks all over the state. It would give local governments outside New York City a choice to ban or restrict their use by others on its streets, bicycle lanes and other pathways, but would give the city the choice of whether to permit the use of Segways along those corridors. In a legislative session distinguished by promises not kept, the bill appears greased for easy passage. The proposal is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor and has advanced to the Assembly’s Codes Committee, and has moved further than some bills meant to tackle such core state issues as health care financing, environmental protection and ethics reform. Opponents, including New York City officials, are trying to kill it. In a twist, environmentalists are vigorously opposed to the bill. While the Segway may appear eco-friendly at first blush – it is futuristic in aesthetic detail and a self-balancing people mover powered by batteries – clean air proponents say the bill, if signed into law, would do harm by making life harder for pedestrians. Walkers may be forced into cars, said Peter M. Iwanowicz, of the American Lung Association. Or, those who trade walking for Segways would contribute to pollution, he said, since they would have to plug the batteries the Segway used into the wider electric grid to charge them.

What’s the world coming to when enviros are “vigorously opposed” to something like the Segway? Can most people count on more than one hand the number of times they’ve ever even seen a Segway in public? Is it really a pollution threat?! And geez, aren’t these the same people that are all in favor of hydrogen and electric cars? Guess they haven’t done the math on how much energy is needed to create the hydrogen fuel or how much energy it takes to charge an electric car battery. Maybe we should just go back to horse-and-buggy (though the enviros won’t like those pesky horse emissions)…

Leonard Gilroy is Senior Managing Director of the Pension Integrity Project at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. The Pension Integrity Project assists policymakers and other stakeholders in designing, analyzing and implementing public sector pension reforms.