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Segway to debut on streets of Atlanta

From Ann Kellan

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Three Atlanta, Georgia, organizations are the first to buy a fleet of Segways, electric one-person scooters that created a buzz when unveiled in December.

The Georgia Power Co., Ambassador Force of Downtown Atlanta and Atlanta Regional Commission are purchasing 10 Segways for about $9,000 each.

According to the Ambassador Force, a business-funded patrol that provides tourist information and cleans city streets and sidewalks, its supervisors will use Segways to get from place to place where their employees are working.

The Atlanta Regional Commission, a multi-county agency in charge of transportation planning in the Atlanta region, will use its two Segways to go back and forth to offices around the city and to tool around neighboring towns.

Georgia Power said it will use two Segways at its power plant sites and at corporate facilities. It also will test whether employees who read electric meters would benefit riding the scooter.

MORE STORIES Reinventing the wheel Diagram of the Segway 
The Atlanta Police Department gives the Segway scooter a spin in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. (April 24)

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The fuel-efficient Segways run on two batteries. The electric chariots have five gyroscopes that keep the units balanced and upright.

Most are programmed to have a top speed of 12 mph. Each can travel about 15 miles on a single charge, which requires plugging the battery into an outlet for about six hours.

Segway representatives have said learning to ride one is easier than mastering a bicycle.

Cops on wheels

Some critics have questioned whether Segways, which were designed for sidewalks, should mingle with pedestrians or be limited to bike paths and streets. It will also have to hold up along unforgiving roads. This may be especially true in Atlanta where potholes sometimes go unfilled for several months.

The Georgia Legislature passed laws limiting Segway speeds to 7 mph on sidewalks and 15 mph on roads, where riders will be required to wear a helmet.

The Atlanta Police Department is putting six Segways through a two-month test to determine how the department can best use them, for everything from patrolling parks to zipping down aisles at Hartsfield International Airport.

New Hampshire entrepreneur and Segway inventor Dean Kamen has said the scooters increase the distance a pedestrian can trek and fills a needed gap between walking and driving a car.

Segways won't be available to consumers for another year. The average price is expected to be about $4,000.

Word about the Segway -- known previously by the name "Ginger" or "It" -- leaked in January 2001.


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