Olympia should end flirtation with Ginger

It should be no surprise to anyone that some of Olympia’s legislators are smitten by the Segway scooter called Ginger. Or that there’s actually a bill gliding through the political process that will let people buy the $3,500 scooter without licenses or registration fees. What do you expect from people who can’t seem to address our state’s real transportation problems?

Forget roads. Forget transit. Let’s put our effort into high-tech Ginger. Gingers for everyone — old people, golfers, mail carriers.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, poses a host of problems for local governments, which wouldn’t be allowed to regulate the scooter’s usage on roads where the speed limit is less than 25 mph or on sidewalks where the average pedestrian speed is 3 to 4 mph. Ginger travels anywhere from 12 to 17 mph — too slow for 25mph roads and too fast for sidewalks.

But reality doesn’t seem to be a priority in this case. Segway creators wowed legislators Monday with the new toy and test rides. Kastama told the Senate Transportation Committee, "I want to see this in restaurants, I want to see this in shopping malls, any place that a person goes, I want to see a Segway."

Some representatives said Ginger would be perfect for doorbelling. Might our legislators become so giddy as to believe that public financing of campaigns should start with free Gingers for candidates?

Mind-boggling ideas kept flying out of Monday’s scooter-politician love fest. Matt Dailida, Segway’s manager of government affairs, planted this dandy: "Because of its uncanny ability to … be part of a human, we believe it should be treated much like a human. It can address some of our most serious problems with congestion." Whew. What a relief. We’re so darn sick and tired of those congested sidewalks.

Do legislators really think Ginger is going to alleviate our traffic woes? We’ve got problems on I-5 and U.S. 2, not on Main Street sidewalks.

Ginger needs to prove herself in our capitalistic market and follow safety rules. She’s done nothing to show she is worthy of special treatment. She may well find a niche with the U.S. Postal Service and National Park Service. But she can’t start travelling the streets without some serious guidelines. And heaven forbid that our legislators order cities to accept these scooters on sidewalks.

Creator Dean Kamen plans to create an "etiquette" for using the scooter. Another naive idea. Consumers decide how to use a product. Etiquette, in this case, is no match for legislation that provides for people’s safety.

Olympia might have a desire to see the Segway any place that a person goes, but we’d settle for seeing a little common sense in Olympia.

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