Strange Conveyances: 1

In Pittsburgh on July 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Autism Walk 027

As I was crossing the Fort Pitt Bridge on foot, I saw a chain of Segway riders passing in the opposite direction. They wore blank expressions and rolled past me at drowsy speeds. I later found out that the riders were patrons of Segway in Paradise, a tour company based in Station Square. For $59 (plus tax) guests can man their own Segway unit for two hours, zipping along the sidewalks of Downtown and the North Side.

People have strong feelings about Segways: They’re harmless fun, they’re the way of the future, they’re incredibly dorky, they’re the cause of American obesity. As I watched them disappear over the bridge’s carve, I remembered a sentiment shared with my Dad a couple of years ago.

The last time I visited Washington, D.C. with my parents, we strolled the National Mall and passed a flock of Segway-riders gunning for the Air & Space Museum. My Dad and I watched as the Segways rolled out of sight, and finally I blurted, “Those things drive my crazy.”

“I’m so happy to hear you say that,” my Dad replied with an understated chuckle.

My Dad always fears that technology will take over the world, and cell-phones and MTV spell the doom of humankind. I’m less fearful of the Segway; the machine requires pedestrian walkways, and the U.S. is painfully short on sidewalks and walking paths. I’m guessing that Segway patrons wouldn’t want to walk the National Mall anyway. In their defense, the distance between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial is 1.9 miles, and on a sweltering day in the District of Columbia, the hike can be exhausting. Then again, that’s what the Metro’s for.

But the Segway will probably survive as a novelty. Everybody will love to smirk at the sight of one; few will buy a Segway for themselves, and it’s a little expensive and unwieldy to offer as a gift. Really, it’s perfect for a Pittsburgh tour company: After two hours of slow-moving whimsy, $59 poorer, riders will feel satisfied with their zigzag through Downtown and ask about that famous Primanti’s sandwich.


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