16 October, 2005

Death to Segway

The production of energy is a nasty business. There is always some by-product from its manufacture, be it direct or indirect. If you think me mistaken, consider for a moment how we humans produce energy: we consume plants or animals, and produce waste. This waste is a feast for some creatures, but its accumulation has such adverse effects on our own health that sewers have been critical technological achievements for all civilizations.

In last week's paper (this should give you an idea of how busy I've been: that it took me a week to get around to posting this)...

As I say, in last week's paper, there were two articles about that infernal beast, the Segway. One article described "Segway tours" in Paris; another described a barrier island in Florida with similar tour options.

I find this depressing. From my point of view, there's nothing a Segway can do that an old-fashioned, mechanical bicycle can't do better. It doesn't seem any less wide than a bike, so there's no advantage in terms of space taken on the road or sidewalk. Segway is bound by its battery, and at an unlikely 24 mile maximum battery life is nothing to crow about. A bicycle is bound only by the determination of its rider; it's true that I only ride my bicycle 8 miles a day, but I could (and have) ridden further. Segway putters along slowly in comparison to a bike, and at $6000 it costs 20 times as much as my bike.

True, the Segway is electrically powered, but for a machine that's touted for environmental friendliness, this doesn't strike me as much of an advantage except for those people who really ought to be riding a bicycle in the first place. Reread my introduction on the production of energy if you doubt me, and ask yourself whether coal-fired plants, nuclear reactors, and the toxic chemicals required for the production of solar cells are preferable to pushing pedals.

The Segway strikes me as yet another example of our culture's obsession with novel, electric-powered, labor-saving devices even when human-powered, mechanical devices would do the job just as well, if not better.

Having gotten this far in vain condemnation, I confess that there are good reasons to use a Segway. I've even had to admit as much in arguments I've had with people. I just can't ever remember what those reasons are! I'll probably own one someday, and the design of the device is enormously clever. But so is a bicycle...!!!

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