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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.


I see a perfect place for these – as an alternative to the summer shuttle in Zion (or other shuttle-only roads). But the rental must be economical – and not Xanterra economical, either.

Might as well throw another tire on the fire. Another not very brilliant idea actually receives the validity of controversy. Must we really even entertain this hair- brained idea? There is no practical use for a segway in the parks. The Handicapped can't stand on a segway, and if they can, they should just walk or take a shuttle.

Segways are toys. They aren't transportation. They aren't for the handicapped. Little old ladies who need wheelchairs because of their hip replacements or osteoporosis won't be using Segways as an alternative.

Segways are just toys. Take them to your city park to play, but don't put up another building housing another concessionaire or more paved trails so that people who want to play with a toy have another place to play with a toy.

Segways in the National tacky! Next we'll have conveyor belts to help the super obese get their fat butts around the parks. Parks are for wholesome exercise: physically, mentally and spiritually.

This fall I was on the waterfront of the SF Maritime museum building that is being renovated and Golden Gate Park. I was enjoying a very nice evening walk along with several other walkers/runners when along came a Segway tour. I can only assume this group had a commercial use permit to operate within the park. This tour didn't slow down or detour and actually the tour leader honked a horn at those of us in his way and shouted as us to move! How's that for a friendly tour? If this is the future of the Segway in the NPS I say no way in addition to all of the other reasons stated above.
Also, if you've ever had the chance to be on a Segway, you might find out that they might make parks more accessible for some with disabilities, but many will not be able to use them due to the stamina and fine motor skills needed to operate them. As it has been pointed out you must stand and in addition have excellent balance since the movements are controlled by the operator leaning forward, backward and twisting side to side.

Wow kurt you have brought out the longest list of comments on any article i have read so far. good job. segways like many products have a place in the market, is the National Parks a viable market? maybe. would it be better to fire up a 4x4 pickup truck to run next door or use a segway? less fuel no pollution. Do we need segways running around a park like mopeds on a island in the caribbean? NO.

It is wrong., goes against my personal ethics that Our National Parks are considered a source of profit for private corporations.

I agree with all the other previous posters here. However, should we ask the reason that people visit the parks? I used to look down on people who experience the park from the inside of their car, or those who never venture more than 100 feet away from their motor homes.

Is the goal for people to get value out of their park? Yes. Can people get value from Yosemite without ever leaving a car? Yes. Can people enjoy Lake Mead while drinking beer in a motor boat? Yes. These people may not get as much value as people who go for a hike or camp in the backcountry. Personally, I would say that you can't really experience a park unless you get out in it, (e.g., going for a hike), and that drinking beer in a motor boat on Lake Mead is not the best way to experience one's park, but I can't say whether those other uses of a park are necessarily wrong or bad. It may not be the perfect way to do so, and I would say that people who ride a Segway around Yosemite Valley would not get as much out of it as I would on a hike.

So, NO, I don't think Segways are a worthwhile way for somebody to "experience their America." At least not for me, but if somebody gets some extra appreciation of Yosemite while riding on a Segway, is that a bad thing?

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