President Bush tries out 2-wheel electric scooter during visit to New Hampshire
In what may be a sign of things to come, postal workers will be zipping past palm trees on Segway Human Transporters as they go about their appointed rounds today in Tampa, Fla.
The Segway - a two-wheeled, scooter like device known simply as "IT," before inventor Dean Kamen unveiled it Dec.3, on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America - has began its first public trial run.
Kamen said he approached the postal service for tests because he expects it will make a great partner in showing off the Segway as an activity tool. "We are excited to be working with the postal system because they are in everybody's neighborhood, on everybody's sidewalk and they are very well respected," he told GMA.
A few other cities may soon follow Tampa's lead in putting Kamen's scooter invention to work. The Segway's first postal test runs in Tampa will continue through Feb. 8, and more are planned in Fort Meyers and Concord, N.H. Police officers in Boston are scheduled to give the Segway a test run in February.
Kamen said plans for other trials are in the works: "We are working with a couple of large corporations who are using it internally - factories and warehouses - and a few others I don't want to announce until they are done."
President Bush Rides Segway
Meanwhile, the Segway caught the attention of the Commander in Chief last week when Kamen joined about 100 friends and backers of President Bush who were invited to a pre-speech reception at the University of New Hampshire.
Kamen was riding a Segway scooter outside the university library, giving rides to a few guests, but Secret Service agents wouldn't let the inventor bring the Segway up to where the President was giving his speech, according to the Union Leader of Manchester, N.H.
During his speech, Bush cited Kamen after he noticed him at the back of the crowd, and later the president chatted with the inventor, who told him he had a Segway downstairs. Secret Service agents quickly brought it up to the floor, and the president rode it around. He picked up how to use it right away, Kamen said.
Kamen said he has also taken the Segway on a test run on his own in downtown New York City. "I was in your city and I went down to ground zero with this device and I spent a couple of hours waiting in line, nudging along with people," Kamen said. "It was no problem at all."
Putting IT To Work
Tampa Postmaster Rich Rome says he looks forward to finding out whether or not the Segway will help postal workers deliver more mail in less time.
And Chris Pesa, one of five Tampa postal workers testing out the new transportation device, says he is more than ready for some technical assistance on his route: "It will save me so much wear and tear on the walking and carrying the mail."
The Segway will give workers the ability to carry a 125-pound mail bag instead of the standard 35-pound bag.
But there may be disadvantages in using the Segway as well. Workers will have to load the device on and off a truck using a special ramp. And, while postal workers typically sort the mail as they walk along, it remains to be see whether they can do this while riding the Segway scooter.
Kamen, however, says workers will have special gear that will hold their mail and allow them to sort as they 'Seg' along.
The scooter-like device, designed to mimic the human body's ability to maintain its balance, allows riders to control speed and direction by shifting their weight and using a manual turning mechanism on one of the handlebars. (Take a closer look at IT)
The 80-pound transportation devices have a top speed of about 12 miles per hour, and can go about 15 miles on a single battery charge from a regular outlet. Segways can carry a single rider up to 250 pounds, with cargo of up to 75 pounds.
Initial production of the Segway scooter is aimed at industrial and commercial users, like the U.S. Postal Service. Those units are expected to sell for about $8,000, while Kamen hopes to offer less expensive consumer scooter models next year.
For more information, see electric motor scooters
Mark Harris contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.the-scooters-report.com.
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