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Segway Inventor's Death Highlights Importance of Rider Safety

David Mittleman

In a horrendous twist of fate, the inventor of the Segway fell to his death from a cliff while riding on one of the scooters. According to an investigation into Mr. Jimi Heselden’s death, 62, the millionaire businessman died from multiple injuries consistent with falling while riding a “gyrobike” including multiple blunt force injuries of the chest and spine.

Detectives found Heselden’s “lifeless” body near Jackdaw Crag, near Boston Spa in Wetherby, England on September 26. A paramedic pronounced him dead on the scene and his wife later formally identified his body. In addition, authorities apparently discovered a Segway Scooter near where he fell. He is best known for his two most prominent inventions: the “blast wall” basket, which is being used as a replacement for traditional sandbags to protect soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Segway, which is a two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter.

This tragedy further complicates the markets tenuous relationship with the Segway. Overall, the Segway has been relegated to a niche market, since it carries a price tag of $6,000. Furthermore, the scooter has been the subject of several recalls and some cities such as New York have banned its use on city streets. However, some tourist sightseeing groups, as well as safety officials in some towns and cities, have embraced the scooter. Thus, Mr. Heselden’s death highlights the important safety precautions that riders should take when using a Segway:

  • Wear brightly colored clothing and helmets.
  • Ride on the sidewalk if your town or city allows it.
  • Start out at “Turtle” mode—the low speed beginner setting.
  • Have an experienced rider teach you how to ride, turn, stop, and spot you while you ride for the first time for at least 10 minutes until you get the hang of it.
  • Don’t “push” your Segway. For example, don’t continue to lean forward if you get a “Speed Limiter Alert” or continue riding when you get a “Stick Shake Warning”.
  • Don’t ride on steep slopes or slippery surfaces.
  • Supervise children (the minimum weight requirement is 100 pounds).

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