On Monday, San Francisco civic leaders voted 8-2 to disallow use of Segways on footways and cyclepaths.
This was welcomed by Matt Smith, a columnist on San Francisco Weekly. In a hard-hitting polemic, he called the Segway " the ultimate American doomsday machine," potentially responsible for a "tsunami of lard."
He said the Segway is "a national threat at least as grave as Iraq: It's a high-technology lard-making device introduced at a moment when America is suffocating from obesity."
When BikeBiz.co.uk managed to place a fatties-rejoice Segway article on the top IT website, The Register, we were inundated with emails from Americans (presumably fat ones) who said our portrayal of US citizens as somewhat flabby to be well wide of the mark.
Just imagine, then, the abuse Matt Smith is going to get.
"Fat, rosy cheeks. Ample alabaster bellies. Arms that flap, legs that waddle, bodies by the million shaking like bowls of jelly." That's his description of average Americans.
His article said Americans don't exercise enough and the Segway would add to the lard mountain.
Two months ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that about two-thirds of Americans are seriously overweight. And a former US.surgeon general recently chaired an obesity summit at which everyone agreed that obesity was a major threat to personal health, finances, and pursuit of happiness.
The last thing fat Americans need is a device that allows them to walk even less than they already do, said Smith. Legislators of San Francisio were therefore to be congratulated, he said.
Mayoral spokesman P.J. Johnston said the ban "sends a defeatist message from San Francisco to the rest of the world. We're going to be the first city in the country to send out the message that we're afraid of this product, rather than embracing new technologies and new forms of transportation. It says we're so fearful that we don't even want to contemplate its use."
And it's not just because of the laziness potential of the device: the claim that it's pedestrian-friendly and will always stop before crashing into fellow sidewalk users was poo-poohed by Smith. He wrote there's evidence even Segway supporters have crashed into walls in San Francisco, damaging civic property.
San Francisco's cycle advocacy group, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, had hoped Segway LLC would put its lobbying cash behind building more Segway-friendly cycle paths but the corporation declined, arguing the 12-mph devices should be allowed on sidewalks. In San Francisco, where people still use the sidewalks, this was Segway Corp's downfall.
Dave Snyder of Transportation for a Livable City said:
"The alternative-transportation movement in San Francisco is so strong that we're not fooled by [Segway LLC] taking on the mantle of alternative transportation. That's perhaps going to work in towns that don't understand what alternate transportation is about. But here, we understand what sidewalks are about, and we understand what it's about to crowd pedestrians. Within the last year there's a whole new emphasis on how exercise is most effective when it's achieved as people go about their normal lives.
"Billions of dollars are spent having people go to health clubs. But they're finally coming around to realizing that the way our neighborhoods are structured, there is no way to get exercise.
"Walking to work, walking to the store, riding your bicycle is the way to get Americans more active."