by Tom Bross
Ride, walk, jog, hike, bike. It’s a sure bet that we've all used one or even more of those modes of getting up-close and familiar with European cities and towns. Now, in recent years, comes option Number Six: scooting around while standing on a Segway, the two-wheel, rechargeable electric “personal transporter” introduced by Bedford, New Hampshire’s Dean Kamen in December, 2001.
Gyroscopic sensors make it a remarkably self-balancing vehicle. Simply leaning left or right, while gripping the handlebars, does the steering. Lean forward and you travel…forward. The extra-big rubber-tire wheels can be rotated in opposite directions for zero turning radius, especially advantageous on congested inner-city streets. No need to be intimidated by the high-tech engineering; this is essentially a grown-up’s version of kid stuff. Top speed approaches 12.5 mph, about 20 kmh. A single charge (from any standard wall outlet) would suffice for a 24-mile/38-km jaunt.
Perhaps you've already spotted Segways moving (while faintly buzzing) in such U.S. locales as Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Sarasota, Las Vegas, Austin, Atlanta and Annapolis. Police officers steer special i.2 Patroller versions in Albuquerque, Greensboro, Bridgeport, New Rochelle and Pittsfield—plus Florida’s Walt Disney World and on Yale University’s campus in New Haven.
Swinging over to mid-continental Europe, I've found a growing number of reliable resources for guided tours (check ahead for age and weight requirements). They are, for instance, in:
Excursions have been popping up in other sizable Deutschland cities: Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Hamburg, etc. Learn more by contacting the German National Tourist Board in New York City, tel. 212-661-7200, fax: 212-661-7174
The seasonal “personal-transporter” boom has spread eastward in Europe, with much to see in the beautifully laid-out Czech capital. Meet-and-greet at Old Town Square, then to Wenceslas Square, the turreted Powder Gate, past the National Gallery, National Theater and Rudolfinum concert hall, meandering through the densely populated Josefov Jewish Quarter, on pathways flanking the Vltava River, across the statue-festooned Charles Bridge and swerving onto midstream Kampa Island. Cost for a 90-minute jaunt: €48 per-person. Contact: Segway CZ-Praha, tel. +420/266/710/300
Long stretches of promenades bordering both banks of the Danube are tempting for Segway enthusiasts, who meet initially on Lázar utca in the heart of Pest. Three-hour midyear touring takes in St. Stephen’s basilica, the state opera house, Roosevelt Square, Vörösmarty Square, passing the central market hall in the bustling Vaci district, elegant Andrássy Boulevard and—by way of the famous Chain Bridge—over to the lofty castle district on the Buda side of the river. Reasonably priced at €56 per-person. Contact: City Segway Tours, tel. +36/1/269/3843, http://www.budapestsegwaytours.com/