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E-M:/ Segways & segues

Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>

I appreciate Anne Cox's message, and she had sent me her aside regarding the
concern about language regarding those who might use a electric scooter to
get around.  Below is the response I sent, which I didn't originally post to
Enviro-Mich because it was responding to a private email:

The questions here are whether nonmotorized trails and sidewalks should be
opened up to motorized vehicles of any sort; and if so, under what
circumstances should they be allowed?  My point is that unregulated access
by any motorized vehicle to a non-motorized pathway or trail is a wedge that
threatens to open up more and more competition for what are rare
opportunities for people to walk and enjoy otherwise non-motorized
recreation and transport.  While you evidently didn't catch it, I did imply,
and would say it is reasonable, to allow such vehicles in the same way one
allows a motorized wheelchair -- it is designed to serve those who cannot
(not DO NOT WANT TO) walk or bike on such a trail.

However, even then the question comes where is the limit?  In Lansing the
River Trail has golfcarts used by retirees who patrol it, and I have to
admit some discomfort with that -- is it appropriate to allow a golfcart on
a non-motorized path at all, or should some other way of patroling be set
up?  We constantly hear complaints from people who own off-road vehicles and
all-terrain vehicles that not allowing them to drive everywhere in the woods
that they wish to go is an infringement on their rights. But the simple act
of them driving in the extraordinarily few and rare areas that are
nonmotorized destroys much of what makes that area wonderful.  Diversity
must be respectful, and diversity of options for those who both use and
don't use motorized vehicles of any sort must be allowed.  My call was for
something other than an unthinking override of "non-motorized" for these

This has nothing to do with being against those who are not able, for whom
accomodations can and should be made.  It does, however, have to do with the
sloth of the average American (me among them) who are far too ready to use
up fossil fuels (and electric vehicles like this, unless they have wind or
solar arrays to charge them up, ultimately use fossil fuels) to get
themselves around instead of incorporating walking and other non-motorized
transport options into normal life.

This is also not about athletes vs. regular people -- it is about
facilitating and encouraging all people to do what is in their ability to
do, and the vast majority of Americans and Michiganders in particular
desperately need to get out and walk places instead of driving or
motorbiking around.  Michigan is the second fattest state in the nation, and
Detroit is the fattest city, which far from being a neutral problem presents
enormous societal costs in health care alone.  Getting out of the car,
getting off the elevator, getting off the scooter, for those who can, saves
the right kinds of calories (fossil fuels) while burning the right kind of
calories (fat). I am sorry you found the remark rude, but increased levels
of diabetes, increasing heart disease, etc. etc. actually call for us all to
push both ourselves and others to get moving.

We DO support the full range of alternatives, and call for appropriate
vehicles and transportation options at all levels, but comparisons should be
valid. Comparing a Segway with a Prius makes no sense -- no one has
suggested Prius should be allowed on non-motorized pathways, and just like
any car a Prius should be left parked when an able bodied person is
traveling a short distance and can walk, bike or otherwise use alternative
means to get there.

I assume that your reaction has to do with, perhaps, the arrogance of some
who disdain the need to allow for those who are not able to walk or bike to
have a chance to get around.  That arrogance and disdain is wrong, and
should not be tolerated.  I hope however that you can see that there is a
distinction between such an attitude and the suggestion that an unthinking
override of "non-motorized" poses a serious problem.

Anne Woiwode

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