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Segways are cars, judge rules

19 January 2011

Barnsley Magistrates’ Court has conclusively determined the much-debated question of whether Segways were cars in the affirmative.

Ruling in R v Phillip Coates yesterday, district judge Michael Rosenberg said: “I am inexorably driven to the conclusion that I am satisfied to the required standard that the Segway is a motor vehicle.”

The CPS brought the case against Phillip Coates after he was spotted riding his Segway on the pavement outside Cudworth police station.

The parties agreed the Segway was a “mechanically propelled vehicle” but, to qualify, the “personal transporter” also had to be regarded as “adapted or intended for use on the road”.

The judge said he reached his decision applying the “acid test” laid out by Lord Parker in the Saddington case; that is, “whether a reasonable person looking at the vehicle would say that one of its users would be a road user. In deciding that question, the reasonable man would not, as I conceive, have to envisage what some man losing his senses would do with a vehicle; nor an isolated user or a user in an emergency. The real question is: is some general use on the roads contemplated as one of the users?”

Whether or not the Segway was a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on a road, he continued, was “a matter of fact and degree, looking at the case as a whole”.

Being a criminal case, it was also for the prosecution to establish the case beyond doubt, he said.

Referring to Pill LJ’s comments in Saddington, the judge said “surrender to the temptation to use [a Segway] on the roads will not be an isolated occurrence”.

He added: “I agree that it requires no stretch of the imagination to contemplate that any user of a Segway on the pavement will be tempted, as the defendant appeared to be, to ride upon a road when this is convenient, due to a ‘full’ pavement or for other reasons.”

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