When the Segway Human Transporter – the first self-balancing, electric-powered transportation machine known to man – was introduced to the curious public back in 2001 the device was viewed as a space-age oddity that came packaged with big promises.
Emerging from the mind of genius inventor Dean Kamen proponents of the Segway claimed the product would transform the way people work and live by making urban environments more livable by providing a solution to short-distance travel. Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon.com predicted that “cities will be built around this device”.
While these bold proclamations have yet to come to pass Segways have become a favorite tourist destination and activity in cities throughout the world including Music City U.S.A. – Nashville, Tennessee. We recently had the honor of spending an afternoon with the iRide Nashville team when we took their entertaining and exciting excursion through the booming metropolis on the Cumberland River.
iRide Nashville makes it possible to see the whole city in just a couple of hours. Riders are given a quick overview of the machinery and complete a test run before they strap on their helmets and climb aboard Segways to cover the challenging five mile course set up throughout downtown Nashville.
Nashville is currently undergoing a growth spurt unprecedented in this capitol city’s history. Not only is traffic to and fro a challenge the downtown shares space at any given time with a number of large construction projects along with their attending equipment most notably the large industrial cranes that are building the new towers in the city.
So, in addition to visiting landmarks such as the Country Music Hall of Fame, Tennessee State Capitol, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Ascend Amphitheater and the Bicentennial Mall tourists also needed to navigate through the ongoing growth in Music City.
On this excursion we brought along our friend Paul Freeman a native Nashvillian who is well-known in this town as an outspoken advocate of alternative housing. Freeman has spent the better part of the last five years preaching the benefit and power of dome home design and he has built several of these edifices throughout Mid-Tennessee. His future plans include pursuing an intentional co-housing community that will prominently feature the Monolithic concrete dome.
“It was much more stable and reactive than I imagined, reacted very well to my movement and the safety features are impressive and adaptive,” Paul Freeman said describing his first experience riding a Segway. “They seem much more legit and functional than I had imagined.”
We asked Paul, who said the iRide Nashville tour did show him some areas in town he previously never knew existed, if he could imagine a place and role for Segways with the alternative communities that he is planning.
“Yes battery operated and more sustainable transportation and energy saving technology should be the norm. Segways could really help people cover many miles quickly and still experience the joy of taking a walk,” Freeman concurred adding, “Inside any mixed community of people, age, and other differences, Segways could be great tools for intermingling ideas and simply sharing time with people who could not normally walk together or at the same speed. Segways could be great common denominators.”
Interestingly enough – the one common denominator residents of Nashville currently do share is the previously mentioned traffic problems that are currently getting out of hand as the city continues to grow at a brisk pace. In late August city officials in Nashville finally revealed their ambitious plan for mass transit improvements. The nMotion plan combines a range of strategies to fight traffic gridlock and fundamentally change how Middle Tennessee travels.
“People need a much easier way to get around,” Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said at the Wednesday morning unveiling of this comprehensive regional system that will require nearly $6 billion in capital costs over a 25 year implementation. Calling transit an issue of equity, quality of life, economic development and environmental protection Barry indicated that Nashville is ready to get rolling to ease the traffic and improve the overall outlook in Music City.
We’d like to remind Mayor Megan that there currently exists a form of personal transit that makes getting around easier courtesy of the technologically advanced Segway Human Transporter. While perhaps cities have yet to been built around this device, while you’re rebuilding Nashville, maybe you can make room for them in your plan, too! They’re fun and functional and could still live up to their promise as a sensational segue to the future.