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"INTERPRETATION: HIGHWAYS ACT 1980
(1) In section 329 of the Highways Act 1980 (c. 66) (further provisions as to interpretation), for—
(a) the entry relating to "bridleways" after the word "foot" insert "or human transporter";
 
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(b) the entry relating to "cycle track" after the words "pedal cycles" insert "or human transporter";
(c) the entry relating to "footpath" after the word "foot" insert "or human transporter";
(d) the entry relating to "footway" after the word "foot" insert "or human transporter";
(e) at end insert—
"human transporter" means a self-balancing electric device with two driven wheels in a transverse line and a maximum unladen weight not exceeding 50 kilograms and speed limited to 13 miles per hour irrespective of gradients less than 10%."
(2) Nothing in the Highways Act 1835 (c. 50) shall prevent a person from using a human transporter as defined in section 329 of the Highways Act 1980."

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 152, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 153 and 154.

The amendment concerns a device known as a human transporter. Its marketing name is Segway. It is a self-balancing, two-wheeled, electric human transporter device. I had to spend some time defining the amendment, and to my chagrin, I realise that there is a cross-referencing error, which I am sure the Minister will not hesitate to point out.

Its overall dimensions are no larger than a slightly portly adult. It has the ability to emulate human balance—I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, will respond to the amendment. It does this with the aid of very clever gyros made by British Aerospace. It can carry a reasonable amount of shopping or a bag. I consider that I am fit but I find just walking back to Pimlico carrying a laptop fairly strenuous. This device would allow me to get back to Pimlico without any effort. It would also avoid the need to use a private car or a taxi.

I know that several noble Lords have tried out the device recently. What I find extraordinary is the very fine quality of the controls. To move forward, it is necessary only to lean forward; to slow down or go backwards, you just lean backwards; to turn, you turn a twist grip, and the device can neutral turn. The controls are very clever. It can neutral steer in its own length. The performance level of the Segway—in other words, how fast it can go—can be altered by the manufacturer or by the user to prevent it going too fast for him.

Empirical data gathered by Segway indicate that owners use the device to replace cars for journeys of between two and 11 kilometres. These very short car journeys are the most polluting because the cars' catalytic converters and other systems will not be hot enough to function properly.

Resistance tends to come from groups who refuse an opportunity even to test the machine. One of the most important and respected pedestrian advocacy groups, City Streets in New York, took a very positive position on the use of the Segway after its members tried it out for themselves. I take it that all those who have advised the Minister on the merits of this machine have tried riding it, although I am not convinced that they have.
 
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The Segway is in use in many European countries but there is a legislative difficulty: it is not appropriate to use it in the road because it goes too slowly. However, it cannot be used on the footpath, where it belongs, because our highways legislation allows only pedestrians or invalid carriages to use the footpath. The Segway is designed for fully able-bodied people; it is not an invalid carriage. Thus it is a matter for central government and primary legislation if we want to take advantage of it.

When Segway discussed the device with the UK Government it was met with the response, "I am terribly sorry but you cannot use it in the road because it is not a proper motor vehicle, and you cannot use it on the footpath because it is not a pedestrian or invalid carriage. To alter that would require primary legislation. I am so sorry". I hope that the Minister will be a wincy bit more positive tonight.

When drafting the amendment I noticed that only one very small provision of the Highway Act 1835 is still extant. It is hardly worth keeping. Amendment No. 154 suggests removing that tiny bit of legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Rogan: I support the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I first experienced the Segway human transporter on a visit to South Africa about 12 months ago. I used it extensively and enjoyed it. As an able-bodied person I was able to use it. I found it extremely interesting. I strongly support the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee.

Lord Berkeley: I tried this machine out at lunchtime in your Lordships' car park, along with a few other noble Lords. It was remarkably easy to use. When it was in high speed mode you travelled along the footpath at quite a rate. You could also go more slowly. I persuaded the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, to try it.

Noble Lords: Oh.

Lord Berkeley: I do not think that is a source of amusement. She was quite frightened to start with but she asked me to tell the Committee—she is very sorry that she cannot be here tonight—that by the end of her trial she was rather taken by the device. A few other noble Lords tried it as well. It is a great shame that officials in the Department for Transport have not tried it and neither have Ministers, but it is there. It is useful for some people. I prefer a bicycle because it gets weight off and I get some exercise, but it is a useful device. It is rather like a motorised scooter and probably rather more convenient.

As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said, the device is illegal because no one can work out where it should be used. If it had wings it would probably fly, but then the civil aviation Act would not apply to it. It is important, for if the Government do nothing, they become a bit like King Canute. This thing is here, and being used by Italian police for chasing people. This morning, one of the people who had this machine said that he regularly uses it to cycle through Hyde Park, on going to work
 
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every day. He was stopped for riding it on the cycle track by a policeman who was driving a police car. That was all right; the policeman can do anything he likes. Yet this poor man, who was not hurting anybody, gets stopped. I do not think he was arrested, but it is pretty stupid.

So my message to my noble friend is: can we please take this seriously? It has arrived. I do not know whether it should be on the road, the pavement or the cycle track. There will be all kinds of representations from people, but we have to try to fit it into our transport system so that it can be used safely, along with everything else. I urge the Minister to get moving on this, so that people do not start getting arrested for using it, which will look awfully stupid for the British Government.

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, I, too, support the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I have a declared interest in electric vehicles for disabled people. We have the same problem in driving on the road, which was solved by putting a rotating orange lamp on the top. If owners of the Segway had such a lamp on the top and went on the main road they would not be infringing the law at all. I seriously suggest that there could be a way of dealing with this without having to go into all sorts of extraordinary legislation for a specialised vehicle.

The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I suspect my noble friend Lord Attlee will be much encouraged by the support he has received this evening. I should like to add my name to that.

I was in Lexington, Kentucky a month ago and managed to speak to a police officer there who patrolled the streets on a human transporter. He said he found it an excellent way of patrolling farmers' markets and such street activities, and that it was a good public relations tool. He also said that he had used it to arrest and detain a thief trying to make a getaway in a stolen car. I must say I found that slightly hard to visualise, but he nevertheless assured me that he had managed it. Needless to say, his chief of police was delighted, strongly supported their use and has ordered a further three for use by the Lexington police force. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, the Italian police are using them quite extensively, and I believe our own police force are carrying out evaluation tests at the moment.

In America, they can be legally used in 42 States. In Europe, they are receiving generally favourable support, particularly in France, Italy, Portugal and Greece. The German police are currently conducting a pilot which should lead to a change in their legislation. In May 2003, Luciano Caveri, then chairman of the European Parliament committee on regional transport and tourism, said:

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I do not normally support everything that comes out of the EU, but I am particularly pleased to be able to quote that tonight, as I believe that they could provide part of the transport solution for the shorter journeys in our cities. Furthermore, I can even visualise park and ride with one option being the ability to rent a human transporter for the last leg of one's journey.

Because they are not cheap—costing upwards of £2,500—and have a top speed of just 13 mph, they are most unlikely to be used by antisocial or aggressive users. In any event, I understand that would-be owners are required to undergo training prior to use, at which time considerate use would be given a high profile. So I strongly support my noble friend's amendments, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I hope they will receive a sympathetic ear from the Government.

9.30 pm


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