Segways on Heartbreak Hill

Yesterday morning as I was riding up Commonwealth Avenue by Boston College, on the backside of Heartbreak Hill on the Boston Marathon route, I saw to young men gliding down the sidewalk on Segway Human Transporters at about 10 mph. It was suprising, to say that least, and I had no idea who these people could be. It seems like an expensive way to get to class, though I wouldn’t put it past some wealthy BC students.

Then this morning I read an article in the Boston Globe (“On the Roll Again: Five Take Scooters on 4,000-mile Trek“) that offered an explanation. It turns out that five twenty-something guys hopped on their scooters in California on August 9th and have been traveling at 10 miles-an-hour across the country ever since. It appears I was lucky enough to cross paths with them on the home stretch, less than 8 miles from finishing their journey.

I once test-rode a  Segway in an extremely vivid dream I had just after they hit the market. The dream was so clear that I genuinely feel as if I’ve experienced this innovative form of transportation, and I must say it was pretty fun. But when I woke up, the $5,000 price tag as a bit too real for my wallet, and it wasn’t clear exactly how this human transporter could revolutionize the way we get around without first dealing with the bigger issues of SUV’s and suburban sprawl.

While the Segway is a technological marvel, I still think the bicycle is hard to rival as one of the most efficient and pleasurable forms of transportation we’ve come up with so far. What scares me most is the idea that one day I will find myself stuck in traffic on a freeway somewhere and will wonder if my years of biking for transportation were just a dream, a foolish fantasy never to survive past my graduate school years. But I’m strangly inspired by the foolish journey of these Segway riders, and I wonder if we’re all trying to get in touch with something deeply spiritual about transportation, a sense that how get around matters in more profound ways that we are usually able to realize.


2 responses to “Segways on Heartbreak Hill”

  1.  Avatar

    Well, crossing america by segway is no more or less foolish than doing it by bicycle or walking, which has been done. In each case, the mode isn’t ideal for the trip, but you do get there and you don’t do much harm in the process.Sitting in traffic on a freeway, on the other hand, is a foolish journey. The only way out is to consider the commute when you choose the job. Me, I’m fortunate to have my home, job, and daily needs all on one subway line. Except no, I’m not fortunate. I planned it that way!Peace, Jarrett (

  2.  Avatar

    Yes, foolish in the best possible sense–a purposefully
    counter-intuitive act of defiance, an activist performance piece, a
    pilgrimage of self-transformation. It’s
    good to hear of people like you who have arranged their lives in such a
    that getting to work-play-home all makes sense on a daily basis. I
    think the habit of biking is changing my values–hopefully in a way
    that will shape my future decisions.