Segway tours planned for visitors next year

Posted: Monday, July 28, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A tour company says it will sell people the chance to glide through Alaska next year in futuristic style on Segway ''Human Transporters.''

''You feel like George Jetson,'' said Bob Dindinger, president of Alaska Travel Adventures. He said he likes the scooters so much, he often rides one to work at his company's offices in Juneau and Redmond, Wash.

He plans to launch Segway tours, rentals or both in Anchorage, Talkeetna, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell and Skagway.

Segway riders stand and grip handlebars. The device self-balances through the tilt sensor and gyroscopes in its computer brain. When a rider leans slightly forward, it goes faster. It slows to a halt when the rider leans back.

The motor scooters can be set to go as fast as 12.5 mph. But Alaska Travel Adventures executive Gary Odle said that the company's tours would be limited to 3 mph to avoid problems with pedestrians.

Alaska Travel Adventures would likely not offer Segway tours of downtown Anchorage, Dindinger said, but would take clients on a tour that focuses on natural history, he said. Routes for its planned tours in the other cities have also not been set.

Odle said Juneau is not on the list, at least to start with, because its downtown streets are too full of tourists and other people in the summer.

The Segway tours will be done in small groups, each with a guide. Tour participants will wear helmets for protection. Each helmet will have a built-in two-way radio to let the guide provide commentary.

Dindinger said he got the idea when he came across a Segway rental shop in Spokane, Wash. ''I was just blown away by the interest and the demand,'' he said.

The company has not set a price for the tours or rentals, he said.

The Segways could hit a brick wall in Anchorage.

Sgt. Nancy Reeder, who leads the traffic unit at the Anchorage Police Department, said Segways are illegal on sidewalks, bike paths, recreation trails or streets within the municipality.

The scooters fall under a municipal ordinance that covers all kinds of motorized vehicles, Reeder said. It was written long before anyone ever thought of the Segways, which are just starting to become available to the general public.

At least a few Anchorage residents are already riding Segways, under the official radar. Reeder said she would suggest to police officers that they first offer a warning.

''If we continue to see it, we would start writing citations,'' she said.

Odle said the Alaska Travel Adventures interprets state and municipal law in a way that says Segways are indeed legal in Anchorage, as in the rest of the state.

The Legislature passed a law two years ago, sponsored by Chugiak Republican Sen. Rick Halford, that made it generally legal to ride Segways electric personal motor vehicles on bike trails, sidewalks and most roads in Alaska, Dindinger said.

State lawmakers throughout the nation passed laws lately to make the new devices legal. But some local governments, including in San Francisco, have banned them from city sidewalks because of potential conflicts with pedestrians.

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