2008-08-30 / Top News

City Upholds Ban on Segway Scooters

By Ryan Schlehuber

Mackinac Island's ban on electric Segway transporters was enforced Thursday, August 21, when two guests at Grand Hotel brought one of the devices with them for their stay from August 19 to 22. Police spotted the woman riding the device downtown and warned her that Segways are not allowed on Mackinac Island.

The couple told police they were unaware of the law and were not issued a ticket.

The woman agreed to keep the Segway at the hotel, where she was permitted to use on the hotel's grounds, according to Police Chief Jim Marks.

The Island has banned motorized vehicles since 1898 and, since June 2007, has outlawed Segway scooters, an upright, self-balancing, two-wheeled device that travels up to 15 miles per hour.

Chief Marks said he was hesitant to serve the woman with a citation, since she had a doctor's prescription for the Segway, however, city attorney Tom Evashevski said a doctor's prescription for use of a Segway does not supersede local and state law.

"There's always a possibility of an ADA [American Disabilities Act] challenge with any municipal ordinance," Mr. Evashevski said, "but we've stood our ground with the use of Segways and we're going to keep standing our ground."

Under Michigan law, Segways are permitted on municipal sidewalks and streets, but the law exempts Mackinac Island, which bans the use of motorized vehicles.

Elsewhere, users must yield to pedestrians and are prohibited from sidewalks or roads if bicycle paths are available.

The city recognizes some motorized devices as alternative modes of transportation for qualified disabled people, such as electric wheelchairs and Amigotype carts. In 2003, the city was ordered by state courts to also allow electric-assist bicycles, under permit.

The city does not recognize the Segway scooter as a legitimate alternative mode of transportation for disabled people.

"There is no gray area, in my opinion," Mr. Evashevski said of the Segway ban. "They are not allowed on the Island. The woman didn't know it wasn't allowed and we exercised some discretion and let her off with a warning."

He said he doesn't know how the couple was able to get their Segway on a boat and to the hotel without the authorities being made aware of it.

The police department receives a few inquiries a week as to the types of vehicles permitted, said service officer Mary Maquis.

Disabled people who want to use an electric-assist bicycle must register at the police department and provide a doctor's explanation. They must also purchase a $3.50 bicycle license.

The Mackinac Island Medical Center loans electric carts on a temporary basis to patients, while Ryba's Bicycle Rental rents carts to those in need of special transportation and requires only that a liability waiver be signed.

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