Miami Beach Might Ban Segways From Pedestrian Areas

Segways: They're silent, they're funny-looking, and they never go faster than 12 mph. And soon they could be banned from much of Miami Beach because of apparent clashes with pedestrians.

At a public hearing later this morning, Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wilson will propose an amendment to city code that would ban Segways from practically everywhere in Miami Beach where people might use them. The devices would no longer be allowed, among other areas, on the Beach Walk south of Fifth Street and between 15th and 23rd and 64th and 79th streets; on the sidewalk east of Ocean Drive between South Pointe Drive and 15th Street; and on the Marina Bay Walk south of Fifth Street.

Local Segway tour operators, unsurprisingly, aren't taking the news sitting down.

"This is not a Segway issue," said Jeremy Rothschild, marketing director for Bike and Roll Miami, a South Beach operator that gives Segway tours and also rents them individually. "It's basically an issue that has to deal with the conflict between pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists."

Rothschild said that if it were to pass, the restrictions would shut down his company. Instead of moving to ban Segways, he said, the city should work to solve the real problem: a lack of proper infrastructure, such as bike lanes, that leads to too much congestion. Segways, he said, have been singled out simply because they're popular.

"We're a tourist destination. If something is popular, do you shut it down?" he asked. "No, you try to find solutions to make sure people are safe."

Segways are allowed on sidewalks in most states. Other metro areas, such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have banned them from sidewalks but permit usage in bike lanes, a solution Rothschild supports. In the past three days, more than 200 people have signed an online petition against the proposed ban, and numerous Segway operators and groups are expected at this morning's public hearing on the third floor of Miami Beach City Hall.

The hearing begins at 8:30 a.m., with the reading on the proposed Segway restrictions slated for 10:25.

Send your tips to trevor.bach@miaminewtimes.com, or follow @trevorbach.

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