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It wasn’t quite the Jetsons-like hovercraft that technology writers imagined. But you may remember the December unveiling of inventor Dean Kamen’s battery-powered “human transporter,” a scooter for short trips around town. Known as IT, Ginger and now Segway, the much-hyped invention with the looks of a manual lawnmower is curbed in Georgia until the General Assembly decides on its rules of the road. It looks like a walker, has a motor like a car, and has two wheels like a bike. Legislators must decide whether to treat it as a bicycle, pedestrian or motor vehicle. Legislation introduced by state Sen. Steve Thompson, D-Powder Springs, would give Segway riders the combined rights of a pedestrian and a bicyclist, allowing the motorized scooters to operate on sidewalks and bike paths where motorized vehicles are prohibited, as well as highways where the speed limit is 15 mph. An amendment in the works may change that to 35 mph. Segway users would need to yield the right of way to pedestrians, but could be allowed to scoot at up to 15 mph on sidewalks, according to the original bill. Pedestrian activists oppose the bill’s speed limits and say they worry about going toe-to-wheel with the devices on sidewalks. Sally Flocks, president and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety (PEDS) Inc., says Thompson has responded to her call to restrict sidewalk parking to areas near utility poles and newspaper boxes, and to lower the maximum speed to 8 mph on sidewalks. But she’s worried about “gonzo users” and “bike courier-like” riders who would disregard pedestrians. She says she’d also like to see the vehicles licensed so that lawbreakers could be cited more easily. However, she has tried the devices and thinks they have potential, as long as users are courteous. The bill, in the Georgia Senate Veterans and Consumer Affairs Committee, may be voted on Monday. The committee chairman, Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, rode the device in a demonstration at the Capitol Thursday. He says the goal of his panel is to make sure the law makes it safe for pedestrians, and that Segway riders don’t hurt people in collisions. He says it’s easy to stop them, so “at first blush” the device seems to handle well. E.C. “Rusty” Kidd is a government consultant from Milledgeville, Ga., who uses a wheelchair after a motorcycle wreck injured his spine two years ago. He says the Segway devices will give more attention to curb cuts for getting on and off sidewalks — attention he would welcome. He says he’s not concerned about collisions with Segway riders. When the vehicle was introduced, it was reported that the City of Atlanta planned to purchase at least 40 of them for Atlanta police officers. According to Atlanta’s planning commissioner, Michael Dobbins, the city is trying to find the money for conveyances. A local private organization, Central Atlanta Progress, also plans to purchase five for the Ambassador Force, a safety patrol based in downtown Atlanta.

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