Wheels turning on Segway access amendment
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – City Council still wants to allow Segway tours on at least some designated sections of city trails, though it will take some further research by the city’s legal department to get there.
During Thursday’s regular meeting, council members heard comments in favor of and opposed to allowing the electric-powered personal transport vehicles on city trails.
“I fully support Segways on any of the streets or trails,” said Kathy Trauger, a Glenwood Springs resident and city planning and zoning commissioner.
“It’s a safer option than a bicycle in a lot of cases, and it’s a good idea to give our tourists another option to see the town,” she said.
However, Glenwood resident Sheila Markowitz said she was “unpleasantly surprised” to happen onto several groups of people riding Segways as part of a guided tour along some of the trails she frequents.
“They can be dangerous … and I would urge you to not allow any motorized vehicles on the pedestrian bike trails of the area,” Markowitz said. “Don’t sacrifice the safety of all trail users to get more tourists around town.”
Last month, council directed city attorney Jan Shute to prepare an amendment to a city ordinance that prohibits motorized vehicles on bike and pedestrian trails.
Council hopes to allow Segways and similar types of devices to use all or parts of the city trail system, but still prohibit other gas- and electric-powered vehicles other than those allowed for people with disabilities.
The move came in response to a request by Ken Murphy of Glenwood Adventure Co., which has operated the Segway tours for the past several years.
Murphy said he knows of 13 companies in Colorado that now offer Segway tours, including ones in Vail and Denver.
“It is a green option, and it supports the growth of sight-seeing tours,” Murphy said. “It’s a great way to see a wide range of areas in a short amount of time.”
The Glenwood Springs tours are led by guides, who make sure people are properly trained to use the Segways before they begin. The devices are equipped with a governor to limit speeds to between 5 and 7 miles per hour, and specific routes are followed that take people to see some of the city’s main attractions, Murphy said.
“We’re not out there causing trouble,” he said. “It’s a sight-seeing tour, not high adventure.”
Shute advised City Council that two provisions in state statute appear to conflict with each other. One prohibits the use of “Electric Personal Assisted Mobility Devices,” including Segways, on any designated bike or pedestrian path.
However, another section of the statute gives flexibility to local governments to authorize such devices on streets and sidewalks, as well as bike and pedestrian paths.
There’s also an issue with certain trail easements not allowing motorized vehicles, and conditions of grants used to build some trails may also not allow such use, Shute said.
“I will need to do an inventory to see where these restrictions apply,” she said. “That will take more time.”
Former Glenwood Springs mayor Bruce Christensen reminded council that promises were made when the city trails system was being built that the trails would be reserved for non-motorized use.
“If you choose to change that, you need to accept the responsibility of telling people the rules have changed,” Christensen said. He suggested that the Segways should be accommodated on some city streets, but not on the bike paths.
Council directed Shute to do the necessary legal research and determine if designated routes and other rules could be established for the Segway tours.
“Segways are a remarkable tool for people who may have limited walkability,” Councilman Dave Sturges said after one local resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis, Kolakanta Darling, appeared before council on her own personal Segway.
“Segways are safer than people think they are,” Darling said in support of the Segway tours. “It’s a great way to get around.”
Added Sturges, “I also think they also have a place in tourism. But we do have to look at the safety of pedestrians, and making the river trail a very positive experience for anyone to use.”
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