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Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?


Coming to a park near you? Photo by sandxr via flickr.

Two Segway entrepreneurs have their sights on Yosemite and Sequoia national parks as the next frontier for these two-wheeled contraptions. Steve Steinberg and Darren Romar, who operate Segway of Oakland, want to offer fleets of these "human transporters" to the two parks.

"We want to expand rental operations into the U.S. National Park Service, and we're ready to take on bigger things like Yosemite," Mr. Steinberg said in a PR release. "Our goal is to work out partnerships where we supply Segway units to start your own turnkey operation, and support for when you are running the operation. We are already looking into a partnership with a concessionaire and we are excited about the Parks. We can only take on so many locations, but right now we're looking for good partnerships"

Of course, the rhetorical question is whether Yosemite and Sequoia and other national parks need Segways tooling around their roads? Another question is why the National Park Service would want to invite Segways into the parks?

It wasn't too long ago that former NPS Director Fran Mainella was touting the healthy benefits of recreation in the parks. It was back in June of 2006 when Ms. Mainella talked about the Park Service's efforts to "advance the physical and mental health of the American public by encouraging additional, appropriate physical activity during visits to national park units."

Riding a Segway around a park doesn't exactly seem terribly physical.

Beyond that, can anyone demonstrate a need to do away with the traditional ranger-led tour of a park? Or are we to assume that rangers will continue to lead tours, but only involving herds of Segwayians? Of course, the savvy Segway fleet owner could equip his units with "electronic rangers" and do away with the living and breathing ranger entirely.

Seriously, though, do we really need to add to the congestion that already exists in Yosemite Valley, where cars, hikers, joggers, cyclists and regular pedestrians already eat up most of the available ground space? Should the Park Service be advocating against walking and hiking? Should the agency be encouraging younger generations to avoid using their feet to explore the parks?

In their drive to "take on" the national parks, will Messieurs Steinberg and Romar lobby to see that Segways gain access to paved trails? And if that's accomplished, will they then outfit Segways with more rugged, knobby tires to conquer hiking trails?

Perhaps there are places in the national park system where Segways make sense, but I hope the Park Service doesn't believe Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and the other 54 "national parks" are among them.


Once again we are not talking about 1 or 2 disabled persons were talking about a group of people touring the park on segways hookah perfectly walk easy enough all of you people who have disabled Parkers stop being so sensitive or not trying to take away your Segway

I'm planning a Yosemite trip with my family.  My parents are getting up there in age and my mom has gout.  For her, walking long distances really does hurt.  A lot.  Imagine wanting to exercise, but feeling pins and needles on your knees every time you step down.  It's not necessarily fat and lazy people who will use these devices.  Think of people who have: gout, a limp, on crutches, anemic, or any other condition.
PS:  For those of you who think we should get a segway for her, it's not like we do these trips often enough so that buying one is practical.  Plus flying/shipping it may not be feasable as well.

Again - the question at hand is whether or not the NPS is going to issue commercial use permits to Segway-based tour operators. We're not talking about one or two mobility-impaired Segway operators on their own, but large groups of people (most who can likely walk well enough on their own) riding these things on organized tours. I understand that there are heartfelt sentiments about how Segways have aided those with difficulties walking, but that's irrelevant to the question at hand. I would imagine that the NPS or individual park superintendents could allow the use of Segways by those with documented mobility problems, but not give a commercial tour operator permission to use them as part of a concession.

I live close to San Francisco and have seen a lot of these kinds of tour activities. This seems more to me like an organized sideshow like those go-kart style electric cars where the driver and passenger are wearing helmets.

As a spouse of a disabld person, who is a young 42............ THANK YOU!! We have 2 Segways due to my husbands disablility after being shot in the line of duty. My husband has much difficulty with prolonged walking and any grade variation. The Segway has been like new legs to someone who once ran 3-5 miles everyother day. We have been able to continue to see and view many natural settings together, that we otherwise would not have. I agree with all that your post stated and can say with conviction that I have personal experience in how Segways allow those that need assistance be as independent and enviromentally conscience as they can be. Thank you again!!!

As a spouse of a handicapped person I find your short minded opinon offensive. Some disabled are able to stand and balance themselves quite well and it is the walking that can create their limitations. Allthough veiwing a national park on a Segway many seem like not seeing it at all to some, for the disabled it may be the closest they can get. Please educate yourself on the disabled and how you might feel as one before suggesting how they might explore a national park.

This really isn't about the use of the Segway for those with mobility problems. The discussion is about using them as organized "tourist vehicles" as seen in some places, with a guiding permit for the company. It sort of looks like a motorized mule train. If you notice - some of them even have deep treads designed for off-pavement use.

I recall senior citizen organizations in San Francisco were requesting a ban of them on sidewalks because they were fearful that people tooling down the sideway at 8 MPH could very well run into those with mobility difficulties (on foot or wheelchair).

As it is now, motorized scooters are allowed on paved areas.

thanks to all you haters out there who have no understanding of what is it like to spend and active life then be house bound by bad knees or hips, heart conditions, diabetes or other things that keep you out of the out of doors. Keep up your elitist demands that nothing disturb your purity of walking. We vote too. And many of you will realize that one day you will not be able to do what you once could do. You will wish a thousand times that you had a seqway to allow you to get out. I have never seen so much hate in my life. This is a country that is supposed to be willing to help those who are older or disabled. We aren't idiots you know, we can control a segway down to a crawl if we need to. What is wrong with you people.

I have spent many years in the National Park Service and it is amazing to me the number of comments in here that refer to "lazy fat americans". Evidently most of these people have no respect for anyone who is not like them. They do not recognize that there are people who are disabiled, but who long to have some of the experiences in our National Parks as others who are physically fit and able to walk in the beauty of the Parks. Reading some of these comments makes me feel as though I have visited Natzi Germany of WWII, where there were people who felt the same way about those who are disabled, and who made sure they were "taken care of". Are Segways for every Park? Perhaps not, but they may be for the disabled and for those Parks who do have roads and trails that are handicapped accessible. I just wish some of these folks would think of others as much as they seem to think about themselves.

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