LogoSegway tour of Berlin

53/365 The Segway has always intrigued me. Even after the overblown hype of 2001 died away.

Given I was in Berlin, I took the chance to look like a dork and try out a Segway tour of the area.

How do you they drive them? Simple answer, to go forward: lean on your toes, backwards: stick out your ass. Friends I talked to after were surprised that there really are no controls. There is some steering via an upright which you can move to turn. Even then, it is more of an indication; if you're stationary then a bend left means "turn on the spot", if moving forward, it produces a smooth turn, with the centre of the circle outside the machine.

I've never ridden a horse but riding a Segway feels like I'd imagine it to be. You give it guidance, and it responds appropriately. Another example: the feedback to speeding is a slight push back on the upright so that it presses lightly against your stomach. It's subtle, but hard to ignore and the meaning is obvious. If you continue to speed (by leaning straight forward) then it'll refuse and go slower and slower until it stops. Again, a nice organic reaction: it is in a huff.

Beware though, it can also bolt; the tour guide was at pains to point out that it will continue forward if you leave it leaning a little when you get off. Here the animal illusion breaks down; even the stupidest horse would surely be better than this.

Would I use this for real, for commuting? My Segway was fun, but I was basically standing up, forever. Fat people would hate it. Here's a telling (translated) quote for the "mobile rescue" version on the German site:

  • Comfort mats reduce fatigue occurring after standing for long

The Segway doesn't easily fit into any category of existing vehicle. In the middle of Berlin we didn't look too out of place because of the smorgasborg of various transport options present. However, when on the road, we interfered with bikes. Whilst on the paths, we surprised pedestrians.

This versatility is felt as a positive by the Segwayer (?), but just means everyone else is pissed off. In the better bike towns there is a clear demarcation between bike and non-bike areas; Berlin is a good example. The Segway breaks these legal (and social) rules. Once the shiny newness of it all wears off, this will become more obvious. Outside of the feel-good TED talk, I don't see this as much more than a footnote in transport history.

Also, given that it costs £WeWontTellYouHowMuchWithoutAnAppointment (Update: you can of course find out the huge price on amazon) , I don't see myself buying one anytime soon.

Would I do it again? Hell yes! Though, next time, I'll bring a lighter bag.