Criticized In The North End, A Segway Owner Rides On

Riders take a recent Segway tour past Boston's Faneuil Hall. (Sonari Glinton for WBUR)

BOSTON — The saying goes that a prophet is never appreciated in his hometown.

Allan Danley is no prophet. That doesn’t keep people in the North End from not appreciating him or his Segways. And he knows it.

“You could ride down this road, Commercial Street, (a) one-way street, on a bike the wrong way and no one would bat an eye,” Danley says. “But if you do that on a Segway, ooh boy, you’re gonna get roasted, toasted and deep fried.”

(OK, Danley is a little prone to exaggeration. And bicyclists have their own issues in this town.)

Danley runs Boston Gliders, which offers guided tours on Segways. On one, you can see in a few hours what it can take days to see walking. They’re fun to ride, futuristic, even energy efficient. All good, right? Well, not so fast.

“I think it’s dangerous for the city and someone’s gonna get hurt,” says Salvatore LaMattina, the North End’s City Council representative. “The issue is safety for me. You know someone is on it, and they’re going 12 mph. And if they hit a senior or a little kid someone could get hurt. I wanna address this issue before someone gets hurt or someone gets killed on these Segways.”

Boston Gliders proprietor Allan Danley on his custom Segway (Sonari Glinton for WBUR)

LaMattina is looking into ways to curtail the use of Segways — possibly even banning them altogether in the North End.

But to prove his point, Danley runs over his assistant’s hand. This is one of the many demonstrations he uses to show how safe Segways are. He rolls over my hand — I’d say it felt like a pinch. Not something I’d want to happen all day long, but not bad.

To further prove how safe they are, Danley wants to take me out on Segway tour. But first we’ve got to have orientation. I tell him I’m a little afraid of falling.

“You’re six inches off the ground,” Danley says, “so we’re going to talk to you about what you should and shouldn’t do in case you felt like you may fall, and how to disembark the Segway properly to ensure that you wouldn’t get hurt.”

I never really got over my fear of falling but I did begin to feel a more comfortable. So we went out for our ride around the North End. As we ride we see lots of fans of the Segway, and for the most part we stick to side streets.

Riding a Segway is pretty fun and it’s kind of hard to see exactly what the problem is. Councilor LaMattina has some insight.

“I have no problem with Al,” LaMattina says. “I know that he doesn’t have a lot of friends in the particular neighborhood that he’s operating in, in the North End.”

Essentially, Danley rubs people the wrong way. He admits he’s found himself in the middle of a few neighborhood feuds.

Even Segway — the company — has a problem with him.

“It wasn’t until his presence was there that there was any sort of an issue,” says Eric Fleming, a Segway spokesman. The company is lobbying the state and the city to keep Segways from being banned. Fleming worries the real problem is not the product, but Danley.

“As an entrepreneur, as a member of that local society, you have to have this two-way relationship with the place in which you operate,” Fleming says.

For Danley, the fight is personal. It’s a fight about his livelihood, and he thinks people shouldn’t make up their minds about Segways because they don’t like him or they think his Segways look annoying.

When Segways were first introduced, their inventor said they would change the world. Al Danley still thinks they can.

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  • rich1234

    Segway, the stupidest thing ever made. We have something that came with us when we where born, they are called LEGS. No wonder 2 third of the population in this country are fat and overweight.

  • John

    If I worked for a boss who made me subject my hand to being run over by a Segway, I would hope that my middle finger still worked.

  • Dave

    People are beginning to sound a lot like the naysayers of those darned horseless carriages. Perhaps it’s all about being scared of changes by something new. Of course, it might just be that Danley is unlikeable.

  • Tobias

    Just because one stands up when using a segway, don’t confuse the segway as a replacement for walking. This is a common mistake by people who do not understand the device. The segway was designed to allow more choice in our transportation decisions, at 25 miles per charge, it allows people to leave their autos behind if they do not care to ride a bike. Banning them for fear of accidents, when there have been zero reported accidents in Boston in over six years of use, is pure ignorance. Few mobility options are as safe.

  • John

    Sidewalks should be for pedestrians only. No segways or bikes. I don’t care if they are on the road and obey traffic laws.

  • David S

    Hey Rich1234….Way to peg the ignorance meter…
    It’s an ALTERNATIVE form of transportation.
    Watch and learn.

  • Carol Lundquist

    Running over one’s hand isn’t the same as being knocked to the ground and hitting your head on a granite curb – certainly a possibility with novice drivers on segways and seniors walking. What’s wrong with walking?

  • Jennifer Coor

    Live and let live. In reply to rich1234 I am neither fat nor overweight but I do have neuropathy of my feet so welcome this type of transportation as an alternative to walking.

  • d3b0rah

    I’ve heard about this situation and I’ve seen the Segways when I’ve gone into the North End, which I do (on foot) about once a week on lunch hour. To be honest, I think the issue may be that the North End has very narrow sidewalks (and streets, actually) and the Segways do seem to me to be a little on the large side when there are a lot of people out and about. The North End tends to be a densely populated walking/strolling neighborhood and I think Segways on the sidewalks in that particular venue do generate a type of tension that wouldn’t otherwise exist. They’re kind of hard to get used to despite the fact that I do see them as an alternative transportation option. It’s the sidewalk reality, I think.

  • Karl Sagal

    I have used my segway in the North End many times, and did so recently when I went to lunch there after the Tea Party.

    I had no problem, as usual, with the narrow sidewalks, as my shoulders are the widest part of me on my segway, same as when I walk or ride my bike. The people were nice, the food was good. If you look for problems you will find them, if you look for a good time that hurts no one, you can find that as well. Be a good neighbor, and have good neighbors.

  • http://chernobog.ru chernobog

    What did not come up so soon completely forget how to walk.

  • eghayden

    The real issue here is consideration and respect for others. Whether we be drivers, bikers, segwayers, or pedestrians if all agreed to follow the rules of the road/sidewalk all would benefit. Drivers jumping lights, bikers or segwayers traveling counter to traffic/weaving, and jaywalkers complicate and endanger. Let’s all agree to be civil towards oneanother.

  • Brenda

    Why are these tours taking place on the sidewalk? It’s ridiculous, if they want to ride on the street, like other vehicles, then that’s fine. Six Segways on a sidewalk in the North End is not just unsafe, it’s impractical and unbelievably rude. It seems to me the Segway people are trying to distance themselves from this operator because his behavior is going to get Segways outlawed in Boston. He clearly thinks so too, because someone that abrasive is not looking to be a good corporate citizen and build a long-term business, he’s just looking to make a quick buck.

  • Allan

    I agree. Let the bikes and the Segways fight with the cars. The sidewalks are for pedestrians. Wheelchairs and those “Hoveround” chairs should also be in the street. Try getting run over or hit with one of those! When I’m in my car I pay attention to what’s going on around me, I shouldn’t have to do that on the sidewalk in the city!

  • http://ericbetts.org Eric Betts

    I own a Segway instead of a car, and I’ve found its much easier to use for grocery shopping and commuting to work than either walking(faster) or biking(less sweaty). I much prefer to glide on sidewalks instead of bike lanes. I feel more comfortable, and I think car drivers prefer it. I’m not sure about North End, but in my area, the sidewalks are often empty, and I slow or completely stop anytime I encounter a pedestrian.

  • Madwoman in the Attic

    I am old and a Segway/Boston Gliders fan. The no-accident history speaks for itself. Besides, they’re innocuous fun, not a contact sport. That must be what makes so many people whiny. Go watch football.

  • Tommy Martin

    This guy seems like a real idiot and is ruining things himself. Segways are stupid, no need for them here. Take that stuff to Hollywood.

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