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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.


You folks make me so PROUD that I spent 20+ years of my life defending the rights of ignorant people to make uninformed, opinionated, stupid statements. Did I see any of you “healthy” folks in Operation Northern Watch?? What about Bosnia?? Kosovo?? Anyone?? Anyplace??? What about even trying to support your troops from home??? How many of you have spent weeks or months away from you loved ones living in horrible conditions, with limited ability to let your family know you are still OK?

I was actually considering buying one of these “contraptions”, so that I could actually get out and see some of these wonderful parks and enjoy them after 15 years of not being able. But after doing some reading I am reconsidering this idea. If this is the type of pompous people I am going to meet in our National Parks, than I am definitely better off staying at home! Thanks for saving me the money.

Maybe you consider researching the topic before you start blowing your opinions out of your pie hole as fact? Maybe you should get off you high horse, and sit in a wheelchair and see how you like it? I guess that I am not deserving enough to enjoy YOUR national parks.

And you wonder why the rest of the world views Americans as arrogant….

Joe Average:
Modern Americans aren't going to exert themselves very hard. Too many of us want luxury and easiness in all things. However if people were going slow and outside on a Segway or bike they might rediscover the joys of being outside and want to venture further from the road on foot or carry a picnic and stop somewhere for hours to lay in a field and listen to the mtns rather than worry about how slow they are going or how badly the other drivers are operating their vehicles or how badly their FM channel reception is.

My sense is that there are a whole lot of people who would like to think that they're into physical fitness spending 15-30 minutes on a Stairmaster, but bypass one or two flights of stairs in favor of an elevator. Perhaps it's not necessarily a matter of fitness level, but what's cool (working out in a gym) versus some anonymous activity (climbing a real set of stairs as practical self transport).

I've ridden a Segway a few times. Neat gadget. I'd be glad to ride a Segway a couple of miles vs driving my car. I'd also be glad to ride my bike for the same distances and more. I'd also ride an electric bike.

Would I rather see a gaggle of Segways, pedestrians and bikes (pedal and electric) on the Cades Cove loop than a traffic jam of SUVs and RVs? ABSOLUTELY.

On the trails? Not so much.

The Segway and bicycles would be a great way to get people out of their cars. It would make a place like Cades Cove an all day destination for more rather than just a place to ride through in a car sipping on a soda or eating some snacks.

People could roll through these areas IF they weren't competing with all the &%$@# traffic on a bike or a Segway and HEAR nature rather than some obnoxious motorcycle rider nearby revving their engines after idling for a few minutes.

Modern Americans aren't going to exert themselves very hard. Too many of us want luxury and easiness in all things. However if people were going slow and outside on a Segway or bike they might rediscover the joys of being outside and want to venture further from the road on foot or carry a picnic and stop somewhere for hours to lay in a field and listen to the mtns rather than worry about how slow they are going or how badly the other drivers are operating their vehicles or how badly their FM channel reception is.

I'm for ANYTHING that removes the automobile from the center of every attraction. I like cars don't get me wrong but I can't walk or bike without breathing all those exhaust fumes and listening to the slow rumble of cars puttering through the parks I visit.

Time to move away from car-centric America a little in certain places. I'd like to see the NPS ban cars a few days per week in places like Cades Cove for us Americans who want to stroll, pedal or even Segway our way around the loop.

DO I want a bunch of tacky concessions? No. I don't go to the mtns for the Pigeon Forge circus. That's what Pigeon Forge is for. I go for a little solitude, a chance to see the mtns a little, and a chance to lay in the grass and just listen. Around where I live I get to hear traffic and sirens and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. No thanks...

Okay, so I am a little late to this discussion but I just found this site. Let me say "WOW!!!" I can't believe how passionate some people can get over something they have never even tried out for themselves. The point I would like to make about the Segway and obesity in America is simply this, the Segway is not designed nor recommended for anyone over 260 pounds! 260 pounds is a lot if you are 5' 9" but not so much at 6' 5". In addition, it does take physical ability to properly opporate a Segway. Is it going to be a person's primary source of exercise? I hope not!!! For those who want a different, fun and exciting way to see ANY sites, not just our beautiful NPS sites, the Segway can't be beat. The previous comments bashing the use of Segways in our national parks are obviously options formed from ignorance of the Segway. There are currently 2 basic Segway models... the I2 which is more of an urban use device while the X2 has big knobbie tires designed for going off road. In addition the X2 can be outfitted with turf tires for use on golf courses and other mainly grass venues. I would suggest all you naysayers go out and take a Segway tour and then come back and tell us all how terrible they are! Bet you won't be able to... like momma used to say, "Try it, you'll like it"!!! And if you don't, you must be dead!

In closing, riding the Segway through our national parks isn't about people needing exercise (go to the GYM!!!). Its about giving people who have an interest in preserving the environment and those who may not be able to negotiate the terrain well on foot a new and innovative way to see the sites. A Segway is easier to ride than a bicycle. And for people like my mother-in-law, who have COPD, it is a way to see the sites at all.

I think segways are neat and look like a lot of fun.
Its rediculus to say restrict it only for handicap citizens.

Cudos too for its "greenness" as an alternative mode of short distance travel.

But having said that, the Segway unfortunately further entrenches our society into our increasing obesity problem because it is a passive mode of transportation unlike a walk or a bicycle ride.

So, still our two feet and a bicycle are best. It gets you there and it gets you fit.
Yes you will sweat on a bicycle. You have to shower anyway at the end of the day.
Yes you will get tired, its called exercise. Nothing a proper diet and rest can't take care of.

To imagine where compact PT or PUMA segways are taking us just watch the pixar movie wall-e. Notice what became of the occupants on the Axiom space ship? Do those compact transportation devices look familiar?

I would venture to say that I have visited and hiked more of the National Parks and National Park Units than anyone else who has made comment here. I have been to 51 or the 58 actual designated "National Parks" plus I have been to over 200 other National Park Units. I have been to parks from the USS Arizona in Hawaii to the St. Croix Island National Historic area in Maine. I have been from Denali to the Dry Tortugas.

If the question is do Segways have a place for use in the National Parks of America, the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!. I have hiked as many or more miles of National Park trails as anyone, yet I still see the value in the alternative the Segway can provide. I am in my late 50s now and I foresee the fact that it is going to become more difficult for me...and many others of similar or older make those 8-10-12 mile hikes. Are you going to buzzing up to the peak of Half Dome or down the Bright Angel Trail on a Segway? Probably not. (though I am not sure that a Segway is any worse than a burro).
But would a controlled, guided, trained tour or people over 60 along the Rim Trail be all that obnoxious?
What about a Segway making its way down the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park? They take up less space and go slower than a bicycle. If I were sharing that path I would rather be hit by someone going 12 mph on a Segway...which is designed to stop when it meets an obstruction...than I would by a teenager on a bike.
There are many trails, paved or otherwise in our Battlefield parks that would be very amenable to Segway tours.
For those of you who want to play the role of Battle of the Bulge policeman, I suggest that there is much more fodder for your concern in every corner of America other than our National Parks. As mentioned by many others, many of those cars that jam the roads of our National Parks are full of junk food junkies that don't get out and walk the trails of the park. I would rather get them out of their cars and onto a Segway.
Certainly a Segway would be preferable, ecologically and serenity wise than a motorcycle or a snowmobile.
Should they be banned? No. Should they be utilized on regulated tours...even Ranger conducted ones? Absolutely. Should anyone be allowed to use them anywhere on any trail in our parks? No. But just like bikes or skis or snowboards or any other kind of device, the use of a Segway could open up our parks to any number of people who otherwise wouldn't be able to enjoy them.
Plus, think about an area like The Mall in Washington D.C. That area is itself a National Park unit, surrounded by many other National Park units. Have you ever had to pound the pavement seeing all those attractions? I have, and I have had the resulting blisters and infections from them to show for it. I believe they already have Segway tours around those parks. Expanding their use elsewhere would make sense. Plus, I have taken a number of tours in our parks in busses or vans operated by private companies....such as Xanterra or Aramark or whoever. Opening up this venue to other concessionaires shouldn't be objectionable to anyone.

To introduce a few things about myself, i have been backpacking, rock climbing, ice climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, and road biking for the majority of my life. Everywhere from Yosemite to Chennai (formally Madras in India). I love tossing on my pack and walking off into the woods for a week or two as often as possible. I do not own a Segway, but would if i could afford one, not because i am lazy, fat or our of shape. but because they are simple a different way to enjoy your surroundings as well as something to be enjoyed all on its own. i have spent some time riding them around. Bob pointed out many truths about the segway.

the average speed of a mountain biker on single track is 12 mile per hour, and they go much faster when their path is more than a foot and a half wide. segways max speed is 12 mph. a segway also does not take up any more ground space then a person standing (by design). My Jamis takes up a fair bit more.

What is most important here is people being able to experience the parks the way they choose too, so long as they are not destroying the parks. which i see no way a segway destroys the park any more than a person on foot or a bike. The inventer of the segway Dean Kamen invented the segway not get rid of walking. He made it so people who get in their cars to drive 2 miles would have some other solution that isnt a bike. after all bikes have been around over a hundred years yet hundreds of millions of people still get in their cars and drive 2 miles to do what ever, the segway offers two new things for national parks.

A new way to experience the parks, which means possibly seeing more encouraging people to come back and explore the great outdoors even further.

it also gives people a new fun and safe means to see the parks that doesnt involve driving a car or motorcycle. the segway is a new solution to get people to stop driving cars where they dont need to be driven, it isnt like those people havent ever seen a bike, or are unaware of the troubles that face the environment today.

correcting a few things, if a segway hits a person, everyone gets hurt and the segway stops. this isnt a train hitting a house cat. Riding a segway is work, just watch the documentary 10mph, and see how tired that guy is each day. i have been avoiding stereotypes here, but i have never seen an "lardass" riding a segway actually.

What makes an experience more than anything else are the people. if we are friendly, respectful and enoy of each others company it doesnt matter if someone is jogging or on a bike or a segway, everyone should have a wonderful positive experience. it is when people turn sour toward each other that our experiences at the national parks are ruined.

I'm observing more and more Cynicism, people who think with their subjective view is the right one makes me wonder if they think this planet and other lives on it are theirs to dictate. These parks are for all, not just the ones with the preconceived notion that what they think the parks are for. We need to quit trying to dictate what others should be doing. The land is for all of us to experience, not just what one or a group of people thinks their experience should be. The concept of Freedom is being pushed more and more out. This land is all of ours, not just one or a group of persons. Keeping an open mind isn't that tough, preconception of what will happen is prejudice. If we think that we are entitled to our individual right for peace and tranquility and the other doesn't have a right to ride a Segway. We have stepped out of our personal zone and trampled on another’s. We all have a right don't we? If someone thinks that the other one doesn't have a right to choose then we're moving towards a Communist country.

Mark who wrote "it's a motorized vehicle. NO." Nice observation Mark, I see you see things in Black or White only. Such an open mind you haven't. Your analogy of no motorized vehicles on bike paths to keep speed down to keep it safe for others. Bikes travel faster than Segways, bikes can travel up to 30 MPH while Segways are limited to 12 MPH. Nice try...or was it? I usually insist that others do their own homework but, we all need a helping hand once in awhile.

I challenge everyone to let go of the 'Controlling Attitude', this is what America is about. Give others a chance, many more are as much intelligent, responsible and respectful as fact the majority. I have a simple analogy myself; we all know we don't need the Speed limit signs, it's the few that ruin it for the rest. That's always going to be that way, laws and rules don't fix things.

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