Group wants nod on Segway tours in Golden Gate Park

The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission will vote today on a pilot program that would allow a Pacifica company to offer Golden Gate Park tours using the distinctive upright, wheeled transportation devices made by Segway Inc.

Despite a controversial 2002 ban on Segway PTs along The City’s sidewalks, the commission is set to allow Segway of San Francisco, a dealership and tour operator, a predetermined two-hour route that would hit some of the park’s most treasured landmarks.

The route wouldn’t include sidewalks but it would use “multi-use” paths and trails, and some say the tour groups could be a problem.

Five years ago, the Board of Supervisors banned the single-rider vehicles from city sidewalks. The resolution by Supervisor Chris Daly aimed to keep pedestrians — especially seniors and the disabled — safe.

One supporter of the sidewalk ban said she is wary of the Golden Gate Park plan as well.

Karen Fishkin, a board member of both the Senior Action Network and Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council, said she has both safety concerns and worries about the environment.

“These things are really quiet, they’re bulky, they can go pretty fast and you turn around and there it is,” Fishkin said. “It could be an environmental issue too, when it comes to Segways going down dirt paths.”

Segway tours already operate on routes through Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina, the Palace of Fine Arts, and even into Russian Hill.

Lawrence Sylou-Creutz Ojermark, the general manager of San Francisco Electric Tour Company, said the tours are popular and guides do everything they can to train riders.

“We try to keep to bike lanes,” he said. “We maintain small group sizes. We try to keep them in line and give them all the training they need.”

He said community complaints have come in, but the company does its best to reroute the tours and keep the audio guides turned down.

San Francisco Electric Tour Company ran into a roadblock a while back when it tried to run a tour through Golden Gate Park, said Sylou-Creutz.

According to Recreation and Park spokeswoman Rose Dennis, if the commission approves the pilot program, The City would start developing revenue from permits to the tune of 28 percent of the Segway tour company’s revenue.

The commission would be able to revisit the Segway tour program again in six months to determine any ill effects, according to Recreation and Park documents on the pilot program. The tours would be allowed to operate Friday through Saturday and on four holidays.

bbegin@examiner.com

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