Erika Engle

Ever concerned for fellow pedestrians, Segway operator Carmen Sylvester says he tends to drive a little slower along congested areas in Downtown Honolulu. Here on a bank errand, he gets a smile and a wave from Fort Street Mall security guard Dwayne Kalani.

A two-wheel solution
for parking and
productivity problems

Parking problems used to mean lost productivity at Small Business Accounting Systems.

Carmen Sylvester of Small Business Accounting Systems ran errands on the two-wheeled Segway in downtown Honolulu yesterday.

Finding parking around the state Department of Taxation, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs or just about any downtown venue was such a hassle the company would send two employees to run errands; one to run the errand, the other to drive the car and circle the block waiting for the errand to be completed.

"That's just causing more traffic, sending two of them to do something that should only take one of them," said Delaine Sylvester, owner of Small Business Accounting Systems, which does accounting, payroll and taxes for small businesses.

Now only one employee goes, aboard a Segway Human Transporter.

Errands get done a lot more quickly, according to Managerial Supervisor Donna Carlos.

Each trip only takes about a half-hour with no parking worries and she doesn't tire out as quickly, Carlos said.

The Segway key is on a lanyard around the errand-runner's neck and the two-wheeler is secured to a post with a lock, as would be a bicycle, Sylvester said.

The $5,500 purchase was liberating for her husband Carmen. He doesn't want to be confined to a wheelchair, but his health prevents him from walking long distances.

"With the Segway, he went all the way (from Kukui Plaza) to Comp USA," she said. Any purchases are placed in a backpack, though New Hampshire-based Segway LLC offers accessories for carting cargo.

The Sylvesters saw their first Segway and its promise for the business on CNN, which drove them to, where the purchase was made.

"What you do before they'll ever sell it to you, is you must take lessons," Delaine said.

They went to Ko Olina, Hawaii's first Segway purchaser. Certified trainers provided the Sylvesters and a Kailua resident an hour of classroom instruction, heavy on the safety aspects, as well as an hour of practical, one-on-one, rubber-hits-the-road training.

The Sylvesters received their Segway about two weeks later, in April.

The primary Segway users at Ko Olina are members of the Aloha Team, whose duties include security. "We love them," said John Toner, vice president of the Ko Olina Resort Association.

"For our resort we're very sensitive about electric vehicles and conservation so it works well with our philosophy," he said. They're also quiet and don't disturb the guests.

As unique as the two wheeled Segway is, it is not immune to theft. But a simple heavy duty woven steel cable and a lock secures the transportation device to nearly any up right object on the street.

Sylvester likes the machine's fueling convenience. "You can just plug it in, just into an outlet."

"This is so clean, it's the wave of the future."

"I hope the Governor and the City let us do this," she said. "I don't know what I'll do if they don't."

Legislation awaiting action by Gov. Linda Lingle would govern the use of Segways on sidewalks and bike paths. The Honolulu City Council has deferred action, pending resolution of the bill on the governor's desk.

Concerns about pedestrian safety and fears over "little old lady road kill" were aired during discussion of the bills, which Sylvester dismisses.

"If people are going to be inconsiderate, they're going to be inconsiderate just walking," she said.

"Normally when you see something you're going to run into, you'll either stop or go in reverse. It's not like you have to apply brakes, there's nothing you have to do that's out of the ordinary."

"We haven't done a Bush yet," said Sylvester, referring to President George Bush's over-the-handle-bars Segway mishap last week.

Sylvester believes the proposed 8 mph maximum speed is too fast. Her company's Segway is normally set for a 3 mph max, which is easily exceeded by passing pedestrians.

A rider's need for speed cannot exceed the Segway's programming as the limit is determined by color-coded keys up to a maximum of 12.5 mph.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached


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