I know, I'm sounding jaded, and honestly I have wanted my own simple Razor scooter (maybe this Christmas?) for some time so I can zip around the warehouse where I work. But as an alternative to urban pedestrianism, shouldn't we make moving walkways and shuttles or monorails a solution for ALL of those who want an alternative to taking their car for short jaunts? I believe the term I am defining here is MASS transit.
As a cyclist, I know the inconvenience factor of a bicycle for short trips and how difficult it can be to simply find somewhere to ride that won't either kill a pedestrian or get killed by a car. Sometimes, locking and unlocking the bicycle to a parking meter and strapping a helmet on and off can take as much time as the trip itself. I'm all for a low emissions alternative to driving, but to imply the Segway as an alternative to walking for those who happen to have $3000 to spend on this device, bothers me a bit. How about lower the price to $2000 and insist the other $1000 be spent on a treadmill?
On Segway's website, the device is touted to "improve mobility" and to "improve the community". Certainly, it beats the pants off of using a car for short trips. The long life battery has little to no emissions (including what it takes to charge it back up) and it's easier to talk to someone from Segway to Segway, than from car to car, although we may still experience the problem of people talking on their cell phones and "driving" at the same time. I can't help but feel that those who now drive will continue to drive and those who now walk or ride a bike will "Segway" instead.
I'm sure Kamen's intention is not to encourage laziness. Kamen always has the best intentions, and certainly Dean is no couch potato himself. He hardly ever watches television, and he might be a bit out of touch with the real world as you and I know it and thus, not realize how out of shape we tend to be. How out of touch can he be? I had seen on an interview that he had attended a friend's wedding and this friend was the daughter of Shirley McClain. Kamen had been sitting right next to Shirley McClain and Warren Beatty. When asked how he couldn't notice who he was sitting next to, he said it didn't matter because 50 years from now, people wouldn't know who Shirley McClain was, but all of the laws of physics that are hundreds, and some thousands, of years old will still apply. Little did Dean know that by 50 years from now, Shirley would have reincarnated at least twice!The first run of Segways will be used in different trades. Amazon's large warehouse will obtain a few to make it easy to get from one side of the warehouse to the other. Police that walk a beat and mail carriers will also get a chance to try the Segway before the $3000 consumer level product is available to Joe Couch-Potato.
Where I see a great deal of potential for Segways are for those who cannot walk well, but can stand. Much to my amazement, in all of the interviews and all of the articles I have read about Kamen and his Segway, this was never brought up. This surprised me since Kamen is well known for many medical products including mobility products, such as the iBot.
If the Segway moves with a slight lean, wouldn't it be possible to put a physically handicapped person on a Segway and simply tell them to lean in the direction that they wish to travel. If the person can stand, therefore making a wheelchair "overkill", wouldn't it be a better solution and perhaps a bit more stimulating than zipping around at 1/4th the speed in a Quickie? Maybe for those who cannot walk for any long distance, but can stand, this could be a great alternative to a 3 or 4 wheel sit-down scooter.
Of course I want to put out there right now that my intentions are to suggest the Segway as an addition to, and not an alternative to, actual physical therapy that could help a physically challenged person to learn or regain their ability to walk. It's just that I feel for a normal quality of life, a certain degree of mobility is required that the Segway could provide.
Then again, I may be wrong. Certainly most of Kamen's inventions have been medical devices to improve the life of others who must use devices such as kidney dialysis and wheelchairs. Maybe Dean thought about the Segway as being nothing more than an upright version of his iBot, until he found out that it wouldn't work as such for most people. I have taken into consideration that perhaps the action required to queue the Segway to move in the first place actually requires the rider to already have the inherit balance and motor skills to walk in the first place. My wife tells me that someone with Cerebral Palsy, for example, would not be able to keep the device moving in the same direction due to a lack of balance that would enable him or her to lean. This would be a shame, because in my opinion this aspect of the Segway, to mobilize the nearly immobile, should be a top priority, and in my eyes more noble, for the inventor rather than to give an alternative means of mobility to those of us who have had no problem moving in the first place.
Footnote: * One would have to have seen the Wal-Mart parody on Mad TV to understand. Otherwise, this column explains my general Wal-Mart attitude.
Disclaimer: My wife is a teacher of handicapped kids in the public school system. A lot of her kids are in wheelchairs and physical therapy is a large part of their daily schedule. So needless to say, the elevation of the standard of living for someone physically challenged will be a "bandwagon" I will hop on any chance I get.
>> Read More A Guru's World Columns