Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

There's a 12 km/h limit on the future in Oz

  • Print

BRISBANE -- To "segue" into our future gives the impression of moving seamlessly into a glorious new age but the vehicle once tipped to transport us into the wonders of the 21st century is, frankly, a little disappointing.

The Segway is not quite what the baby boomer kids of the mid-20th century had in mind when they planned their space-age future while watching the Jetsons on TV.

Vacations on Venus and Rosie, the wise and unflagging household robot, all looked cool. But when it came to 21st-century transportation, that flying car and the 500 miles-per-hour speed limit were truly inspirational, setting an entire generation up for something a little more vigorous than a glorified scooter.

On Thursday, Segways became a legal form of transportation on footpaths and bikeways in Australia's northern state of Queensland.

The upright scooters, which require an erect posture, allowing riders to resemble slow-moving meerkats, have attracted much attention across the state more than a decade after their celebrated launch at the dawn of the 21st century.

Then Dean Kamen, who unveiled the odd looking, gyroscope-packed, electric-powered scooter in New York, declared it the answer to the global traffic congestion.

This "human transporter" would create a mobile revolution leaving us with smog-free, environmentally friendly inner cities populated by smiling citizens gliding silently along at 10 km/h to vegetarian diners to discuss global peace initiatives.

"(The Segway) will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy," Kamen said back then.

The conservative Liberal National Party, which governs Queensland, obviously believes Kamen may have been onto something.

'Can-do' Campbell Newman -- the state's indefatigable premier -- personally instructed Transport Minister Scott Emerson to smooth the way for the Segway.

Emerson was quickly on board, in the literal sense, turning up to his press conference earlier this year with a slightly abashed grin to announce new Segway laws... astride a Segway.

The affable Emerson has also taken his brief seriously, overseeing legislation including a ban on riders under the age of 12, helmet requirements and a speed limit of 12 km/h.

"Like bicycles, they must have a bell or similar warning device in working order and use of mobile phones will also be banned while using a Segway," he cautioned.

Emerson sees endless opportunities including Segway-guided tours of Queensland's more accessible tourism destination (with obvious exceptions such as the Great Barrier Reef).

He has also mooted the possibility police officers may abdicate the cramped confines of their squad cars to opt for this more sedate form of transportation, more in keeping with the tropical climate.

Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart has apparently suggested the machines could be deployed in areas such as Brisbane's popular Queen Street Mall or along popular beach-front attractions in the northern cities of Cairns and Townsville.

While there's been a flurry of public interest, there are questions whether an aging population that has enthusiastically embraced the four-wheel motorized scooter will also take up a technology costing more than $10,000.

And there's also a faint suggestion the Segway is proof positive that supersonic future we dreamed of is not all it was cracked up to be.

Fact is, there's a sneaking suspicion among an aging Australia the Jetsons were (to use a local phrase) "having a go at us."

All those futuristic documentaries of the '70s that had us wearing sparkling silver-coloured spacesuits and eating meals the size of a capsule while never having to worry about cancer again were also a little misleading.

The future is here and all we got was a largely abandoned space program, Skype, the GPS in the car and the bland world of Facebook.

The Segway may be environmentally friendly and even a practical answer to traffic congestion. But it's also a sign humanity has a little work to do if it wants to better realize all those wondrous futures we all gaze so hopefully into.

Michael Madigan is the Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes mostly about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2013 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gail Asper says museum honours her father’s vision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think food-security issues are an important topic to address during this mayoral campaign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google