Letters

Letters 07-28-14

Worry About Legals

I can’t figure out what perplexes me more, the misinformation everywhere in the media or those who believe it to be true. Take the Hobby Lobby case; as a company that is primarily owned by a religious family, they felt their First Amendment rights were infringed upon by the “Affordable” Care Act...

Stop Labeling and Enjoy

I have been struggling to find a simple way of understanding for myself the concepts of conservative, liberal, and moderation as it relates to our social interactions with each other...

Proposal One & The Public Good

Are you kidding me? Another corporate giveaway with loopholes for large corporations who rule us? Hasn’t our corrupt and worthless governor done enough to raise taxes, provide corporate welfare, unjustly tax pensions, and shut down elected officials with his emergency manager racket...

The Truth About Road Workers

Apparently Mr. Kachadurian did not catch on to the fact that the MDOT Employee Memorial in Clare is a tribute to highway workers who lost their lives building our transportation systems. It was paid for by current and former MDOT employees who likely knew some of these people personally...

Idiotic and Misguided

As a seasonal resident, I always look forward to reading your paper, if only because of the idiotic letters to the editor and off the wall columns...


Home · Articles · News · Features · Segway spins its wheels
. . . .

Segway spins its wheels

Katie Huston - August 30th, 2007
“I got hooked on Segways because of the joy of the glide,” Kathleen Russell says. “It’s always fun to share that with others.”
Russell is the owner of Segway by KAR in downtown Traverse City, where she sells and rents the self-balancing, two-wheeled machines. She stands on a Segway and zips around a pole with ease as I wonder, “How does it stay up?”
As though reading my thoughts, she shows me a flashing diamond of green lights on the platform. “That shows that the gyroscopes are reading the platform 100 times a minute,” she explains.
She opened Segway by KAR in August 2006. The dealership serves 15 counties in Michigan and two in Ohio, and offers six models, which range in price from $5,145 to $5,645. Accessories like golf bags and backpacks are also available.
Segways are entirely electricity-powered and can travel 20 miles on a charge, which uses approximately 10 cents worth of electricity. They emit 14 times less greenhouse gas than the average American car, and 20 times less than a large SUV.

A TRUST THING
It’s a trust thing, she explains as she demonstrates. And it’s simple. To go forward, you lean forward; to stop, you can lean back or stick out your bum. “I have my toes down as though I’m pressing them into warm sand,” she says.
The machine has a maximum speed of 12.5 miles an hour. In Michigan, it’s classified as a “personal assistive mobility device,” which means it can be operated on sidewalks, bike paths, and streets with speed limits of 25 or less. Half of the trips Americans take are less than five miles and transport a single passenger--trips that could be made on a Segway.
Before long, I’m swooping around the pole too. “This is fun!” I exclaim, giggling.
“And that’s what we call the Segway smile,” Russell says.
After 10 minutes of practice, we’re off. Everywhere we go, people are looking at us and waving. “If you’re in an introverted mood, go somewhere where you’ll be by yourself,” she laughs. “You’ll spend a lot of time showing it off.”
We meet an older man behind the city’s Maritime Academy, and Russell lets him give it a try. “Look at me! I’m a pioneer, just like the Wright Brothers!” he cries as we Segway together to the end of the pier. “First in flight!”

HOOKED
Russell first encountered a Segway in February 2006. Ten years ago, at 39, she was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease, which impacts the nervous system and impairs motor skills and speech for many people.
Last year she attended a Parkinson’s Action Network conference in Washington, D.C. “One of my colleagues glided in on a Segway, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off it,” Russell said.
Before she got Parkinson’s, Russell was extremely active; she played basketball and softball for Penn State in the ’70s and used to bike from Toledo, Ohio to Traverse City.
“I was used to being able to do things like climb two fourteeners in a weekend,” she said, referring to the 14,000-foot-high mountains in Colorado. “Getting on the Segway was kind of like a return to that sense of mobility for me.”
“I’m a guy who works with words, and I can’t come up with the right word to describe it,” says Paul Heaton of TC, who rented Segways with visiting family members to take a tour along the Bayfront. “It’s an invigorating experience, because the technology is so fascinating and the simplicity is impressive.”

MOBILITY TOOL
Russell stresses a Segway’s role as “a tool for mobility.” Segways are great for people with injuries or prostheses, and for people who simply can’t move as much as they used to. Of the 85,000 people living in Grand Traverse County, she tells me, nearly 12,000 are disabled--over 14 percent.
Roen Tharp of TC has been paralyzed on the left side since he had polio in 1951. He uses a Segseat, an accessory that’s not unlike a bicycle seat, which allows him to both stand and sit. “It’s nice because you can use it on the trails. If you’re not able to walk that far, it helps a lot,” he says.
Tharp doesn’t own a Segway yet, but he hopes to buy a used one. “I think if people are used to being able to do things, and can’t as much as they used to, they should check it out,” he says.
Russell has heard people complain that Segways will make us all fat and lazy. However, she says, it’s unfair to presume that you can judge another person’s ability to walk. And she’s not trying to discourage people from biking or walking.
“We call it Segway by KAR because K.A.R. is my initials, but it’s also to say goodbye to cars,” she says. “We don’t want to replace bicyclists, we don’t want to replace walkers,” says Russell. “Part of my joy in Segwaying is the out-of-doors.”

OTHER USES
Segways are also great for family outings and tours, Russell says. “It allows grandparents to be really cool. It’s been a pleasure to see family reunions.”
Susan Close of TC surprised her husband with a family Father’s Day glide around the city with their kids, ages 12 and 14. “All of us just had these big grins on our face once we started riding them. Within five minutes we had the hang of it. It’s just a feeling of freedom,” she says. “My kids just zip around like it’s part of their body. We call it pod-racing because it reminds us of Anakin Skywalker.”
Segways also have many practical applications for security and business. They can be used in airports, in large warehouses, and for hospital security.
The TC police department has purchased one, which they use downtown. “They’re able to patrol all day for under 10 cents,” Russell says. “They’re eight inches taller, and they’re able to see above the crowd.” The Chicago Police Department has a fleet of 50.
Northern Michigan College received a Segway through an anonymous donation, which has been used by security, in classes, and as part of the energy demonstration center. “It’s a great resource for us,” says Heaton, the NMC director of public relations. “It has made our campus safety officers more visible and accessible.”

MOVING ADVENTURE
Although she hopes Segways can enhance mobility and create family fun, Russell also hopes that for the young and able-bodied, Segways will spark creativity and entrepreneurship. “It’s my hope that some people will decide to be a scientist or inventor,” she says.
“Sometimes I think I should’ve stopped at one Segway, but it’s been quite a moving adventure,” she says, laughing and adding, “pun intended.”
Segway by KAR is located at 130 Hall St. in TC. A lesson is $5 and goes towards the price of a tour, which is
$75. After taking a tour, a 24-hour rental costs $150. For more information,
call (231) 922-0KAR (0527) or visit
www.segwaybykar.com.


 
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