Friday, May 16, 2003 Posted: 12:26 PM EDT (1626 GMT)
SEATTLE, Washington (Reuters) — Want to ride a Segway Human Transporter, the new self-balancing electric scooter that went on sale in March, but can’t bring yourself to shell out $5,000?
Then you can rent one, if you go to Spokane, Washington state’s second-largest city, and meet with Larry Lambeth, who started renting the scooter to the public last Saturday.
“The response has been incredible,” said Lambeth, a long-time entrepreneur who bought 10 Segway Human Transporters with a partner and started his company, Fun Transport, which aims to rent them out to people looking for easy, cheap transportation.
Hoping for national launch
Lambeth is hoping that he can take his business nationwide, with help from Dean Kamen, the scooter’s inventor, but so far Lambeth said he has no deal with Segway, which Kamen founded.
Lambeth, a longtime entrepreneur, is also betting that the scooter won’t be banned from Spokane’s sidewalks, such as in San Francisco.
Kamen envisioned Segway as a transportation device that could eliminate the need to use gas-guzzling automobiles for short trips and an alternative to bikes, inline skates and skateboards.
Others are also jumping onto the rental idea, with entrepreneurs in Seattle and Vancouver starting Segway rental businesses.
Segway Human Transporters are available only through Amazon.com Inc.’s online store, and buyers are required to take a training course from Segway before they start riding on the machine. Amazon hasn’t disclosed how many Segways have been ordered or sold, but said it was among the top-selling items on its Web site.
Pay for a test drive
Rentals cost as much as $20 for each 30-minute increment, for up to 90 minutes “so that users will come back before the battery runs out,” Lambeth said, adding that users are asked to waive any liability claims if they are in an accident.
Users can also pay $5 for a test drive, or “pre-glide” as Lambeth calls it.
Users will also get a two-way radio for their spin on the Segway to call for help if they don’t have a cell phone.
And forget about renting one of the expensive machines and scooting off with Larry Lambeth’s investment.
“We put GPS (global positioning satellite) units on them so we could track their location,” Lambeth said, “but its hidden within the machine so don’t bother looking for it.”