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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Segway Won’t Go Away

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Segway scooterSince this spring, the local Segway company has been trying to get its motorized electric scooters allowed on Toronto’s sidewalks. It has managed to persuade Councillor Bill Saundercook to be its spokesman on the Toronto Pedestrian Committee, and on City Council.

When the company’s idea was voted down in the Pedestrian Committee, it went to the Works Committee. It was voted down again. Furthermore, the City Solicitor prepared a report stating that Segways on sidewalks would be illegal not only according to City by-laws, but also according to provincial law. Then the Toronto Star wrote an editorial congratulating the Works Committee for its decision and pointing out the various good reasons for keeping the contraptions off sidewalks.

But, like the bad guy in a horror movie, Segway refuses to die no matter how many times it is killed. The company’s lobbying somehow persuaded City Council at its recent meeting to keep the idea alive and send it back to the Works Committee. It boasts of this new lease on life on its website:

City councillors voted to defer the Works Committee’s original recommendation to ban Segways from sidewalks in Toronto back to the Works Committee for further information. … Our next task will be to go back to the Works Committee with a softened approach. We are prepared to look at options that would include bike paths and trails in order to find some compromise with this committee.

It goes to show the power of lobbyists who can devote themselves full-time to working City Council and the municipal system in pursuit of an idea that is profitable to them.

The question, though, is simple. If Segway wants to sell its vehicles in Toronto, why not simply ask to be allowed to put them on the road, like other motorized vehicles? The province is currently considering legislation that would allow electric vehicles to operate on the road. No one would complain. It makes no sense to give Segways special privileges, on sidewalks or trails, that are not granted to other motorized vehicles, when there is already an obvious place for them to operate — on the road where they belong.