Segways free to roll in Golden Gate Park

Though bicycles are prohibited along certain pathways in Golden Gate Park to protect pedestrians, apparently Segways are not restricted.

A working map outlines the route on which groups of eight upright scooters, traveling at 6 mph, will tour some of the highlights of The City’s largest urban backyard. It will take them through the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Rose Garden and Stow Lake, among several other attractions.

However, some residents who went on a test run in anticipation of the Recreation and Park Commission vote on the lease agreement today are wondering why the motorized scooters can tread where bicycles cannot.

“Personally, it was a ball,” said Ray Holland, president of the Planning Association for the Richmond. “But about half the trails we took were posted as off limits to bicyclers. Being a bike rider, I’d think they’d be the same, but they’re not.”

Holland said that though the tour was well-organized and professional, families with their children and pets seemed intimidated by the motorized brigade, an issue he plans to bring up at the commission’s meeting.

If the lease is approved, Electric Tour Co. — which already operates in The City and Sausalito — will set up behind the park’s Music Concourse band shell.

But park officials said safety is their top priority and Segways — which are expected bring the Recreation and Park Department about $79,000 in the first year and $115,200 by year five — are less dangerous than bicycles because the groups are led by a guide.

“Once the tours are under way, if there are significant concerns about the route or operation, we will certainly take those into consideration,” Rec and Park spokesman Elton Pon wrote in an e-mail.

The proposed route mirrors a 2008 trial run by another company that, according to Rec and Park officials, did not generate any complaints.

Anyone taking the tour must first take a 30-minute class, wear a helmet and stay on the path, Pon said.

Members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said they found it “odd” that Segways are allowed to travel where bicycles are prohibited.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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