Thursday, June 01, 2006

Letters, We Get Letters...

From the Columbia Flier's mailbag come two letters of note. The first is in response to a letter from last week, which questioned recently-elected Town Center CA representative Gail Broida's use of a Segway for campaigning.

The point of that letter was that Broida made pedestrian access a major part of her campaign message, yet she relied on the Segway to get around and assess the safety of walkers. It struck me as odd that she would use an "electronic personal assistive mobility device" to put herself in the shoes of pedestrians, but what I hadn't considered is the fact that motorized vehicles are prohibited on CA pathways.

This week, a writer comes to her defense, saying:

The state of Maryland considers a Segway an "electronic personal assistive mobility device." Essentially, when you are operating a Segway you are considered a pedestrian, with all of the privileges and limitations that go with that designation. A Segway is not legally classified as a motor vehicle in Maryland and is therefore perfectly acceptable on sidewalks and paths.

Considering that Segways are electronically limited to under 13 mph, slower and certainly more maneuverable than most bicycles, they pose no additional safety issues on Columbia's pathways.

With the extensive network of pathways we enjoy, the rising cost and limited supply of fuel, Columbia is the perfect place for forward-looking, energy efficient transportation like Segway. Every resident using a Segway to commute, visit friends or, yes, even campaign door-to-door, is one less vehicle on our increasingly crowded roads. Let's not let fear of the unknown keep us from embracing progressive, beneficial, energy-saving technology. Columbia's pathways have plenty of room for walkers, runners, cyclists and even Segways.

Hmm. While I agree that having more people commute without cars is a good thing, a city of Segway riders is a bit utopian. First, they're expensive, prohibiting many, including myself (a denizen of alternative transport) from buying one. Second, they are motorized. Although the state may place them in the same category as pedestrians, the state does not control CA pathways. That said, I'm not sure what CA's rules are with respect to Segways on paths, but I know that motorized vehicles are strictly verboten.

But finally, instead of promoting Segways, why don't we do more to promote active commutes to work, like walking and cycling? I know a lot of people don't have the luxury of living close to their work, but those who do benefit in several ways from exercising their way to the office, better health and energy savings to name two.

Maybe I'm on my high-bike here, but cycling strikes me as a much more efficient (and enjoyable) mode of travel. Of course, as a primarily bicycle commuter, my bias is clear.

The second letter I liked came from John Preston, who wrote a few weeks ago about the impending havoc we faced from the HFStival. I'll reprint it here in full because I appreciate that he, unlike others, bothered to write a post-concert assessment.
Well, the HFStival has come and gone. In the opinion section of the April 26 Flier ("Money, not community, is sole aim of 'music' festival," letters), I stated: "We can look forward to heavy traffic, circling helicopters, sirens of emergency and police vehicles, drunkenness, drug use and (probably) fights." Oh boy, was I wrong!

To all outward appearances the festival went smoothly. Oh, there were probably some minor problems here and there, but Columbia did, in fact, survive. Congratulations, Jean Parker. You done good. I am even encouraged by the diversity of the upcoming schedule for the summer.

Pass the crow, folks. I'll take a generous helping.

Naturally, you can think I'm writing this for an "I told you so" moment. But that's only partially true. Really, I'm just glad to see that at least one of those who may have been predisposed to finding any fault whatsoever with the concert took time to write that it was actually not bad. And he seems to have a good sense of humor about it, too.


Anonymous said...

On the subject of motorized vehicles on the bikepaths, I would just like to mention powered wheelchairs. These are obviously allowed on the bikepaths despite their motorized status. It seems that Segways are being fit into the same category of "electronic personal assistive mobility devices".

In our shared enthusiasm for cycling and fitness, let us not leave behind the handicapped and the elderly. They should have the same right and claim to an appropriatly planned infrastructure.

Malnurtured Snay said...

I live in Timonium now, but I lived in Columbia for eight years, and I loved the numerous bike-paths that stretched through the various Hickory Ridge neighborhoods. The town was so "bicycle friendly" back then, as opposed to now -- I mean, I probably live as far from Towson Town Center as I did then from the Columbia Mall, and I'd bike to the Columbia Mall all the time and never feel unsafe doing it. But biking to Towson Town Center? I'd be dead as soon as I left my building. Whenever I'm in Columbia now, it just seems like everything there is in super-development mode these days. It's a real shame.

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