Segway Tours in Golden Gate Park Debut

By Ed Moy

"We wanted to try something different," said Andrew Lozier. "We wanted to see the park, of course, but we wanted to ride a Segway."

Lozier, along with friends Chris Beneteau and Peter Eizep, were among the first to experience the new Segway Tour of Golden Gate Park. The trio from Windsor, Canada were in town for the MacWorld Convention at the Moscone Center when they discovered the Golden Gate Park Segway tour online.

"I think it's unbelievable," Lozier said. "In a city with a seven by seven footprint, I think it's an amazing device to have here."

The two-wheeled Segways operate on electric motors powered by batteries which can be charged from household current. It balances with the help of dual computers running on special software, two tilt sensors, and five gyroscopes. A servo drive motor rotates the Segway's wheels forwards or backwards as needed for balance or propulsion. Segway riders accelerate or decelerate by leaning forward or backwards in the direction they wish to travel.

"It is a marvel," said Eizep. "It would not be possible without computers."

Although riding the computerized Segways on the sidewalks in San Francisco is illegal, Golden Gate Park visitors can expect to see more of the motorized transports for at least the next six months. Five years ago, San Francisco banned Segways from sidewalks after demonstrations by groups such as Senior Action Network. Organizer Karen Fishkin protested then and now over concerns about potential danger in the park.

Nevertheless, the SF Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously to authorize a six-month pilot program in December 2007, allowing Segway Tours of San Francisco to operate a two-and-a-half-hour tour of the park on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

"This will allow us the opportunity to see if people like them or not," said spokesperson Rose Dennis from the SF Recreation and Park Department.

According to Segway of San Francisco co-owner Jim Heldberg, the company will operate tours under the 6-month trial permit with hopes of making it a permanent operation in Golden Gate Park. Despite the five-year-old Segway ban on sidewalks, San Francisco Electric Tour Company has been operating Segway tours on routes through Fisherman's Wharf, the Marina, Palace of Fine Arts, and even into Russian Hill.

Heldberg and partner Joe Trimble have been offering Segway tours through their company, Segway of San Francisco, along the Pacifica Coast at locations such as Rockaway Beach and Linda Mar Beach since 2006. But Heldberg sees the Golden Gate Park tour location as a major opportunity.

"We expect to do more tours here than we do down there," said Heldberg, of the new Golden Gate Park tour.

Covering mostly the east side of Golden Gate Park, the Segway tour costs $90 per person. Training and helmets are provided with the tour and riders are accompanied by a tour guide. The tours are limited to groups of eight riders to one tour guide. Larger groups will be accommodated with additional tour guides.

The Golden Gate Park tour route includes stops at the Conservatory of Flowers and at the top of Strawberry Hill in Stow Lake. Tour guides give detailed information about various landmarks, statutes, park foliage and historical sites.

According to Heldberg, if the six-month trial proves successful, additional Segway tour routes along the west side of the Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach will be added.

As authorized dealers for Segway Personal Transporters, which retail for more than $5,000, Heldberg felt that the Segway is more than just a "novelty." He expects to see more and more people owning them as the technology advances and popularity grows.

The Segway was invented by Dean Kamen. It was first unveiled in December 2001 and has since grown in popularity, especially with law enforcement agencies. The name "Segway" is a homophone of "segue," meaning a smooth transition, literally Italian for "follows." Segway riders often refer to the riding experience as "gliding."

The Segway can travel an estimated 24 miles on a single battery charge, depending on terrain, payload and riding style. It can reach a top speed of about 12.5 m.p.h. It is considered eco-friendly because it creates "zero-emissions."

For more information about Segway of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park Tour, visit the website at, or call (877) U-Segway.