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Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board

July 18, 2002

Members of the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee Richard Conlin, Chair. Heidi Wills, Vice Chair. Richard McIver Nick Licata

Dear Council Members:

The Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board (SPAB) has been following with interest--and some concern--the prospect of the new Segway scooter device. We applaud your interest in proactively addressing this new element in the pedestrian environment.

For SPAB the primary issues that Segway raises are competition for limited space on the sidewalk, the speed differential between a pedestrian and a Segway, and the potential for less agile pedestrians to be threatened or injured by Segways. Some areas of Seattle have a high density of pedestrians (a good thing) or relatively narrow sidewalks (not such a good thing). Where there is a high density of pedestrians in relation to the available sidewalk space, SPAB believes Segways will interfere with the ability of pedestrians to move about safely and comfortably. Downtown has the greatest number of pedestrians and a lot of pedestrian activity overall.

Parts of Broadway Avenue and University Way also have a lot of pedestrians. Madison Street serves as the main connection between Downtown and First Hill. Madison Street has narrow sidewalks.

The issue of speed differential is significant for pedestrian safety and comfort. A typical pedestrian walks at 3-4 miles per hour. Segways operate at a top speed of 12.5 miles per hour. according to the Segway website. This speed differential means that where pedestrians are present, Segways can be expected to overtake a lot of them.

It is true that bicycles also move faster than pedestrians and often share space with pedestrians. However the Segway is different than a bicycle in at least two important ways.

  • Segway users may--indeed probably will--prefer to operate on pedestrian facilities, at least in areas with heavy or fast-moving vehicular traffic. In contrast bicyclists generally prefer to ride on the street, along with vehicular traffic.
  • The Segway is a good deal heavier than a bicycle, 69-95 lbs. (depending on the model) versus 20-30 lbs. for a typical bicycle. Being hit by a moving Segway would likely have more consequences than being hit by a bicycle moving at the same speed.

For these reasons SPAB believes it is necessary to regulate Segways even in areas where bicycles are permitted, e.g. Downtown sidewalks.

Segway operation also has the potential to threaten or injure pedestrians. Although there is not yet enough real-world experience with Segways to know the extent of this risk, it seems prudent to recognize the potential Segways on sidewalks--moving at three times the speed of pedestrians--would be yet another hazard with which visually impaired persons would need to contend. And Segway collisions could have particularly adverse consequences for elderly pedestrians.

SPAB is most interested in preserving the desirability of walking as a pleasant mode of transportation and recreation. We are concerned about any impacts that may serve to discourage people from walking.

In view of the foregoing considerations, SPAB suggests the following restrictions on Segway operation in Seattle:

  • Ban Segway operation on Downtown sidewalks between the hours of 6am and midnight. We suggest the boundaries for Downtown be Denny Way to Royal Brougham, and Elliott Bay to I-5.
  • Ban Segway operation on Broadway Avenue/Broadway Avenue E. sidewalks from Pike Street to E Aloha Street between the hours of 8am and midnight. ? Ban Segway operation on University Way NE sidewalks from NE 50th St. to NE 40th St. between the hours of 8am and midnight.
  • Ban Segway operation on Madison Street sidewalks from I-5 to 12th Avenue between the hours of 8am and midnight.

It may also be appropriate to ban Segway operation in certain parks. For example the Arboretum and Freeway Park are locations where Segway operation may adversely affect the quality of the user experience. We urge that any legislation be written so as to allow the Board of Park Commissioners to restrict Segway operation in City parks as that Board deems appropriate.

Finally SPAB recommends some outreach to neighborhood representatives--including neighborhood plan stewards--to solicit input on other locations and facilities where Segway operation might be incompatible with safe and enjoyable use by pedestrians.

We look forward to any ordinance you may propose to regulate the operation of Segway-type devices on the pedestrian facilities of Seattle. Thank you for soliciting SPAB's input on this matter. The Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board is available as a resource for this and other issues of concern to pedestrians.

Respectfully,

Donald John Coney,
Chair. Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board

Michael Ingram,
Former Chair., Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board