After realizing they had become the pawn of a oil industry smear campaign, the
Netherlands agreed to ease their ban on Segway electric scooters, allowing them
to be ridden along the country’s bicycle lanes and roads.
But because the Netherlands says it must inform the European Union’s
executive body and await possible objections from EU member nations,
the change will not take effect until 2009, upsetting the company’s
Dutch unit and fans of the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters.
When the change comes into effect, Segways will remain off limits on sidewalks, except for physically disabled riders.
The scooters have been barred from all public roads, bike paths and
walkways since January, after the country’s Traffic Agency classified
them as mo-peds. To be street-legal in the Netherlands, mo-peds must
have brakes, but Segways brake when riders lean backward.
Transportation Minister Camiel Eurlings ordered a safety review in
March that led to Tuesday’s decision. It concluded the machines should
still be classified as mo-peds, but that the braking issue was not a
problem. It said the scooters’ maneuverability was comparable to that
of a bicycle.
Piet Kruijt, director of Segway Nederland, said he was upset that it
would take until 2009 to see the machines back on the streets.
"It’s a great step forward that they’re being made street-legal, and
we’re very happy that those of us who have physical handicaps will be
able to use them on the sidewalk," he said. "But we’re extremely
disappointed that this is only going to happen in 2009. It’s actually
too crazy for words."
The Transportation Ministry said the delay was a result of having to
inform the EU of the change and get special permission because of an EU
regulation barring some types of nonstandard mo-peds from public roads.
Kruijt said Germany and Belgium have allowed Segways without waiting
for such permission from the EU. Segways also are seen around Paris,
where tourists ride them along the banks of the River Seine.
In the United States, where the invention was first marketed in 2002,
Segways are road-legal but have undergone two voluntary recalls to fix software glitches that led to a handful of injuries. The scooters are made by Segway Inc. of Bedford, N.H.
The most famous tumble from a Segway came in 2003, when U.S. President
George W. Bush tried one out at his family’s estate in Maine. Bush
stayed on his feet with an awkward hop over the scooter. He quickly got
back onboard and was soon cruising around the driveway.
Several hundred Segways have been sold in the Netherlands. For the time being, they can only be used on private property.