The City Council today unanimously adopted a new set of regulations that will limit "electric personal assistive mobility devices" to routes approved by the city transportation department.
People with disabilities will not have to register their Segways with the city or obey the new ban on Segway use on sidewalks and plazas and in parks - but will have to carry proof of their disabilities and will not be allowed to ride more than two abreast.
The measure is aimed mainly at operators of Segway tours - whom some councilors have said pose a growing threat to pedestrians, particularly seniors and parents with strollers - but the restrictions will also apply to non-disabled people who like Segways enough to buy one on their own.
The regulations mean "we control this industry before it gets out of control in the city of Boston and my seniors in the North End will be safe walking the streets," Councilor Sal LaMattina (North End, East Boston, Charlestown) said. LaMattina, the driving force behind the new rules, once had a city official ram him with a Segway to see if it would hurt. It did. He began calling for a Segway crackdown after mothers in Charlestown complained they couldn't get across one intersection one tour operator was using as a starting point for his excursions.
City councilors, city agencies and pedestrian groups spent more than a year developing the new rules.
Under the regulations, tour operators will have to register with the Boston Police hackney unit, which regulates taxis and which will set fees for registration. In addition to proscribed routes, operators will also have to show customers a safety video and have them sign a document that they understand city safety rules before they wheel out onto the streets.
Councilor Maureen Feeney (Dorchester) agreed with LaMattina, but put a positive spin on the regulations. "Certainly it's new technology, it's exciting, it's fun," she said. "We want to create an opportunity for people to explore Boston on thesse vehicles."