Unique Segway case looks likely to drag on

By Imran Ali

A Northland case poised to set a legal precedent nationwide for the classification of Segways could drag on until the end of the year.

The case of Kaikohe Hotel owner Neal Summers - pulled over by police and later prosecuted in the Kaikohe District Court for riding his Segway on a Kerikeri footpath in June 2011 - was part heard in the Whangarei District Court yesterday.

Time constraints meant proceedings had to be adjourned until July 30 when a date for re-continuation of the hearing would be made. The High Court in Whangarei quashed Mr Summers' conviction in July last year and rescinded his $1150 fine and loss of 15 demerit points for riding his Segway - an upright, motorised scooter. He's claiming the Segway is a mobility scooter and not a motor vehicle that has to be registered.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is arguing that under the Land Transport Act 1998, Segways exceed 1.5 kilowatt in power and are therefore not classified as mobility scooters.

In his evidence to court yesterday, NZTA senior engineer Samuel Uprichard said the maximum peak power of a Segway of 3kw could be determined either by checking with the manufacturer or through independent tests. He said Segways were clearly designed for use by able-bodied people and not suitable for those with a disability.

His argument was challenged by the managing director of Segways New Zealand, Philip Bendall, who said about 100 of his customers were mobility-impaired.

With users having to step only eight inches above the ground to get into Segways, he said it was not too great a height to impede both disabled and able-bodied people to use them.

He has done tests on the power output and repairs on Segways and argued that the motorised scooters' maximum continuous power output was between 735 watts and 750 watts.

Mr Bendall said the problem with the NZTA assessment was that it didn't consider that Segways have unusual motors in that if one failed, another provided back-up power.

Mr Summers has two artificial knees as well as a metal rod holding a femur together.

- Northern Advocate

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