If you’ve walked down the streets of Prague’s Old Town recently, chances are you’ve had to make room on the narrow sidewalks for helmet-wearing tour groups barreling their way down the center on electric-powered Segways.
Unlike cyclists, which are treated as vehicles and must (technically) ride on the roads, Segway riders are currently classified as pedestrians in the Czech Republic.
That means a tourist struggling to maintain control of the 50kg machine he or she is operating for the first time has the same rights as you as they power their way down the sidewalk. Under current laws, Segways are actually prohibited from driving on roads – meaning riders must use the sidewalks.
If not a recipe for disaster, it’s at least a mild inconvenience for everyone else walking down the crowded city center.
In Prague, pedestrians are pushing for tougher regulations on Segway activity. Last year, Kampa Island put up a sign up banning Segway activity, though it’s unclear how strictly it was enforced.
The mayor of the city is in agreement.
Statistics on Segway-related accidents are hard to obtain, but in a recent article on Metro.cz, Prague 1 mayor Oldrich Lomecký stated that Na Františku Hospital had registered “dozens” of incidents.
Segways “are a greater evil than casinos or brothels,” the article attributes to the mayor.
Last fall, the Ministry of Transport called for a general ban on Segway traffic on sidewalks. However, it withdrew their call for the ban earlier this year, citing potential loss of profit for Segway operators and the cost of putting up traffic signs.
“It would be more effective if Segway riders were classified as road drivers and drove over the roads,” a spokesman for the Prague City Hall said. The request seems reasonable.
But while Segway accidents and complaints have been rising in the past decade, the Ministry has been slow to react.
“The number of Segways is growing,” Lomecký says. “We have one last chance to stop them.”