Thursday, 15 July 2010

Segway to go

Skateboards are too 'yoof'. Bikes require too much effort. And rollerblades just seem a bit, well, gay. So what's the modern urban traveller to do when they want to get from A to B without exerting themselves or their shoe leather?

Perhaps if we lived in a more just, tolerant and fair society, they could take a leaf out of Lembit Öpik's book and hop on a Segway. The comical politician-cum-reality TV contestant is a big fan of the upright personal mobility solution. Given that he spent two years engaged to one half of the Cheeky Girls, he's more than used to riding an odd-looking laughing stock.

Although heralded on its release in 2001 as an innovative, energy-saving transport option, the Segway found itself stuck in a conceptual no-man's land. Unsure of how to classify it (road-worthy vehicle vs recreational accessory), many countries simply chose to ban it from their streets. That chuckling sound you can hear is Sir Clive Sinclair enjoying the last laugh.

Unfortunately for Lembit, the UK was one of those countries. The government quickly categorised the Segway as a 'motor vehicle' (despite it having about as much power as Katie Price's singing voice). So according to the 1835 Highways Act (which may be due for a rewrite, since it pre-dates the creation of the first modern automobile by 50 years), it's only allowed to be used on private property.

Despite the ruling, no-one's ever been arrested for using the vehicle, probably because no-one in their right mind would be seen dead riding around town clutching a hat-stand with wheels. Or at least, that's what everyone thought until Phillip Coates was stopped by the police in Barnsley when they spotted him trundling down the pavement on his futuristic pogo stick.

Indignant at being branded a law-breaker, the no-nonsense northerner refuses to take this lying down. Or leaning slightly forward for that matter.

The good news is that Lembit is on his side, and wrote an impassioned defence of the mobility martyr in the Guardian today. He questions the logic of banning such an environmentally sustainable mode of transport, and shares his hopes that the new Con-Dem transport ministers will prove themselves to be more "clued up and connected" than their Labour predecessors.

Coates must be hugely relieved to know that a recognisable political figure is fighting his corner. The downside is that it's Lembit Öpik, a man so singularly useless that, by his own admission, he couldn't even get himself arrested.

Without any Channel 5 reality shows to appear in, he's been keeping himself busy "parading about in front of the House of Commons, including on the pavement, using my Segway in a bright fluorescent jacket." But even that wasn't enough to get the police interested.

The Segway may be a fuel-efficient, environmentally conscious way of getting around, but the fact remains that you're always going to be compared to Lembit Öpik or Gob from Arrested Development - neither of whom sets the standard for contemporary cool.

Coates should probably stop complaining and hope for a custodial sentence, in the hope that he might be able to restore whatever smidgeon of credibility he had before he first hopped onto that levitating foot-plate.

No comments:

Post a Comment