I’ve seen these guys whizzing by me. My feet hurt and they sure look tempting. Then I think I’d kill myself. I barely walk down the street without falling. But, it turns out even someone like me can do it so that pretty much means anyone can.
City Segway Tours and its new bike tours operate out of downtown so it’s an option. They have guides, which are now licensed or studying for it. Check out their website at City Segway Tours. Meanwhile, local operator John Voci talks with MonumentalThoughts.com about the business.
1. Segways scare me. They look like simple technology. I see people of all ages drive them, but somehow I think a 51-year-old, semi-balanced (physically) person like me couldn’t do it. How does it work?
I’ve always said when anyone comes in our office nervous about what they were doing, that if these things were dangerous, we probably wouldn’t be in business. I’ve personally taken out someone 96 years old (he was awesome). I’ve taught children, adults, amputees, athletes, couch potatoes and everyone in between. The technology is simple in theory, but a little trickier to explain. The basic idea is you lean forward to go forward and you lean backward to go backward. It only takes as much balance as you need to stand up. Think about how long it takes kids to learn how to walk, how to ride a bike, or how to drive a car. Now, most people pick up the Segway within the first 10 minutes of our training. The important thing to keep in mind is that as simple as they are, it’s a lot like riding a bike or driving a car, whereas if you start showing off or riding recklessly, you can fall. But if you keep your eyes on the road, they are that simple that it is nearly impossible to fall. In addition, they are built with redundant systems so they literally can never throw you off or lose your balance.
2. Your tours are a quick dash around town. How much is the appeal of riding a Segway versus tourists learning about the town?
Both our bike tours and segway tours run between two and three hours. I will admit that the Segways are definitely part of the attraction. However, like I tell all our guides, we can’t depend on them for the entertainment. Ultimately, our guests are paying for a tour and we want to make sure that they are learning about the sites and the great stories behind our awesome city. We believe that enjoying a great fun, safe, and environmentally friendly ride shouldn’t come at a sacrifice to showing visitors and locals D.C. So, I won’t promise that you can learn every little thing about the sites like some tours can offer. But, we give our guests a great overview and help them navigate the rest of their trip around D.C.
3. Do you stop in the winter?
We actually still run in the winter time. The way I put it is that we still have our shop, we have our guides, we have our bikes so why not? We aren’t forcing people out in the cold, but if they want to go out, we’ll bring them out. I will admit, we are much busier in the spring, summer, and fall.
4. What’s the favorite sights for tourists on Segways?
Every tour likes something a little different. I’ve had guests who’ve been in awe at the White House, some at the Capitol, some at the Lincoln Memorial and some at the Washington Monument. I think the Lincoln Memorial takes the cake. For years, the National Park Service didn’t allow Segways at the Lincoln Memorial and some other sites on the Mall while they studied the affects of these truly different machines. For that time, the most common comment was, “I wish we went to the Lincoln Memorial.” We would also say, “So do we.” But the NPS, just last year, allowed Segways to travel on certain paths on the Mall. Even though bikes and Segways can’t ride up the stairs at the Lincoln, it’s still awesome to stop there and let the folks check out the inside. It really is quite the memorial (and I think it’s my personal favorite; Lincoln was the coolest).
5. You also have bicycle tours? What’s next – skateboards, jet skis and parachute tours?
We are all about green touring. We started in Paris as a bike tour company and quickly moved into Segways as the very first Segway tour in the world. Then, our Paris office added walking tours. Here in DC, our Segway tours have been most popular and we just started offering bike tours this year. We like the idea of getting up close and personal to the sites while having a minimal impact on the environment.