Vail Town Council decides to keep Segways rolling for the time being
What are they?
• Segway is a brand name for what’s called an electronic personal assistive mobility device.
• Riders stand on the devices, which are battery powered.
• The top speed of a Segway-brand device is 12.5 mph.
• Devices will automatically slow for downhill grades.
VAIL — The Vail Police Department received five calls about Segway scooters in 2017. Four of those calls were from a tour company that wanted to operate in town.
The Vail Town Council at its Tuesday, Jan. 16, meeting was set to consider an ordinance effectively banning the devices, the generic name for which is electronic personal assistive mobility device. Instead, the council took no action, deciding instead to evaluate the safety of the devices over the next several months.
That was good news for Vail Segway, a tour company that opened last year. The company’s owner, Jim Callan, came to the meeting, as did Seth and Spencer Valentine, who operate the company in Vail.
The proposed ordinance was drafted after a December meeting in which some council members questioned the safety of the devices, particularly in pedestrian areas and heavily used portions of the town’s recreation paths.
Town staffer Gregg Barrie, who handles park and open space issues, told council members that his research didn’t turn up much information. There have been a few injuries reported nationally, but none in Vail.
There have been no complaints about the devices in Vail.
Barrie told the council that Vail Segway checked to ensure the company would meet the town’s various regulations before opening
Callan and the Valentines then told the council about Vail Segway’s operations.
The company is authorized by the Segway company, Callan said, adding that the Valentines are authorized service technicians. All tours are led by one, or, often, two people. Guests are trained before heading out, and tours sometimes won’t go into more challenging areas.
Seth Valentine told the council that tours no longer go into some areas, simply because of the challenges of getting up and down some of the hills. One of those areas is near The Ritz-Carlton hotel west of Lionshead Village.
The company seems to be having some success with the public. Callan noted there are a number of five-star reviews on www.tripadvisor.com, an online travel-rating service.
Council members were apparently swayed by the presentations, with some reservations. They also seemed reluctant to take action that would have effectively banned the devices from operating in most of Vail.
“That would do us great economic harm,” Callan said. “It would be catastrophic if the rules changed.”
Council member Jenn Bruno said some of the initial concerns about the business came from someone on a Segway riding to solicit business in Vail Village. That doesn’t happen anymore.
Bruno added that she appreciated all the hard work that’s gone into the business.
Chapin said he still has reservations about the business, but added, “I think we can find some common ground. … We’re not here to put anyone out of business.”
But, Chapin added, when the town is busy, it can be difficult to have motorized devices on the streets. He also questioned the private use of the devices in town. On the other hand, the devices are mostly used in police and industrial roles, and there are relatively few in private hands.
Council member Greg Moffet told the business operators he was ready to vote to curtain Segway use in town. After hearing the Vail Segway presentation, “I’m persuaded to the contrary,” he said.
“These folks thought they were playing by the rules,” Moffet said. “We need to be circumspect about changing (those rules).”
Vail Town Manager Greg Clifton told the council that town staff can monitor Vail Segway’s operations in the coming months and then return to the council with recommendations for what action, if any, might be required.
Possible action could come as soon as the Tuesday, Feb. 6, council meeting, when the council will consider action to limit the number of Segway operators in town to one business with a requirement that only guided tours be provided with a maximum of six people per group. Segway rentals would be prohibited, although personal use by Segway owners would continue to be allowed.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.