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Segway Not Welcome at Eco-Development… Even if You Have a Disability

A Segway may seem a little tame for a professional slalom skateboarder, but for 2003 Slalom-Cross world champion Richard de Losada, his Segway has become the transportation mode of choice for short errands and trips to the beach (as well as playing Segway polo).

A resident of eco-community and tourist destination the Sea Ranch in Northern California, de Losada certainly thought his Segway was the perfect choice for the green lifestyle promoted by the community.

He found out differently on Feb 24, 2007, when the Sea Ranch Association gave him a ticket for a covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) violation for riding his Segway.

Richard, who had moved his family of five kids to the community for the “good clean environment,” limited his Segway use, even though the community’s CC&R didn’t specifically mention such vehicles.Β  He didn’t ride it around the community, but continued to use the Segway for other trips. “I could ride 4-5 miles on 10-20 cents of energy,” said Losada, “so it seemed like a no-brainer. But I observed the rules at the Sea Ranch.”

Richard’s run-ins with the community association probably would have ended there.Β  But, on April 18, 2008, he was involved in a work accident: a tire blew out on a riding lawn mower he was operating, the machine rolled over, and Richard was left with a broken nose, hairline fractures in his ribs and skull, and dislocation of both hips. “The weight of the machine almost broke my back, so I guess I came out of it lucky,” he said.

The accident left Richard not only unable to work, but also with very limited mobility. Suddenly, the Segway wasn’t just a greener choice for transportation: according to Richard, it became his “magic carpet.”

The Sea Ranch Association didn’t see it that way, though. Despite his disability, Richard was again ticketed for riding his Segway in the community on January 15, 2009.Β  This time, the citation was more specific: two-wheeled electric vehicles are not allowed in this “green” community.

I did reach out to the Sea Ranch Association for comment, but received no response. The CC&Rs for the community are available online: while I found no reference specifically to “two-wheeled electric vehicles,” the document does clearly state that the Association can make rules concerning “the type or types of vehicles other than conventionally equipped passenger automobiles which may be permitted to use the roads” (Article V). I’d still be happy to talk to a representative of the Association…

Richard’s issue isn’t with the Association’s right to make rules, though: rather, he’s concerned with the rules themselves. “This is a community that promotes itself as green,” he told me. “Why would they ban the use of a vehicle that’s also green?”

That’s a good question… especially when that vehicle is also being used as transportation for someone with mobility issues. I’d be really interested to hear what others of you have to say about this issue.Β  Are these kinds of limitations common in such communities (green or not)? If so, why… I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of banning Segway use period. They seem no more offensive than bicycles…

Images courtesy of Richard de Losada

12 comments
  1. Jim Overby

    Richard should contact DRAFT-Disability Rights Advocates for Technoogy for advice. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) gives certain legal protections to mobility devices for idividuals with discbilities.

  2. Lori

    Jeff, this is not about being green at all. This is about control. I lived in Houston for 8 years and every time I have ever dealt with “homeowners associations” and “planned communities” it is about control – who can be in the community and how they must live. The reason given is “maintenance of property values”. However, it is really about homogenization. If you read the website for the Sea Ranch, they are very imformative about how they limit public access and if you are a visitor you must have a permit with you at all times. They don’t simply ticket autos without resident or visitor stickers, they IMMOBILIZE them. Further, much info is limited access such as home design, ongoing activities – things perspective residents might want to know.

    Frankly, I find it interesting a “planned community” considers itself “green” at all since part of the underlying philosophy of green is one of openness and diversity. Planned communities are for people who do not want diversity and openness, hence the walls, guards, resident ID stickers, etc.

    In this situation, the obvious control issues are even more unforntuate as this approach people will do more damage to their community and the image of eco-communities in general than a 100 segways.

  3. Allen

    Anytime you deal with HOAs, it’s walking a fine line because they can make your life difficult by nitpicking everything you do. Landscape light burnt out? You get a warning letter. Park your car in the driveway overnight? You get another warning letter. On and on it becomes very uncomfortable. Some HOAs have board members that have nothing better to do than be jackasses.

    As a Segway owner, I would first send a certified letter to the board asking to provide specific evidence of what code was violated. Assuming they don’t back off of their position, I would inform them of the ADA rules and threaten a big-ass lawsuit which they would most definitely loose.

  4. Zee

    I do not know this community or the whole background story. But I agree with Lori.

    Petty people, with a little “power” in community associations tend to be rigid to the point of being irrational. That is the main reason I gave up on such communities.

    For example, would they still say no to Richard if he showed them that the Segway is greener than alternate options (e.g. a regular, 4 wheel mobility aid)? What about if he has a Dr.’s note? The answer is probably yes, they would. But to find out I encourage you to dig on this and as for Richard, I wish him luck.
    Z

  5. Bob Kerns

    First, let me agree, contacting DRAFT (draft.org) is a good step.

    If I’m not mistaken, this falls under the Fair Housing Act, rather than the ADA, though possibly the public areas fall under the ADA. Anyway, that’s one thing to investigate.

    Also, the California UNRUH statute may apply here.

    Also, as he needs his mobility to be able to enjoy his property, perhaps he can sue under constructive disposession?

    There was a similar case recently in Florida. The HOA lost that one.

    HOA’s (or their management companies) often depend on sheer staying power — most people don’t have the energy to fight. But HOA boards are volunteers — often well-intentioned and NOT power hungry.

    For example — the HOA’s management company might have been telling the board that allowing these “vehicles” would open them up to liability. In the absence of other information, the board may have followed this bad advice.

    By the way, under California law, these are NOT vehicles, they’re EPAMDs (Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices), and classed as pedestrians, not vehicles.

    I’d try a series of quiet conversations with the individual board members, indicating why the policy is wrong, that you’re not going to back down, and will pursue it legally if necessary, but would rather solve it through neighborly discussion and education.

    I’d also look for a lawyer, but wouldn’t go beyond an initial consultation until you explored the basic communication approach. After all, these are your neighbors, and there are a lot of negatives around suing your neighbors!

  6. Hans Bruhner

    Are you kidding me? The Sea Ranch is the perfect place for a Segway. I would really like to hear from the homeowners association and how they arrived at their decision. On the face of it, I do not agree with them.

    I used to have a couple of Zappy electric scooters and the rangers at Annadel Park in Santa Rosa asked us not to ride them on the bike/walking path…. they said they had a rule against motorized vehicles and these were motorized…

  7. Sand Jockey

    This is just too funny. Once again the HOA rears its ugly head and tries to force “standards” that it has no place enforcing.

    1. The Segway is classified as an EPAMD (Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device) which, under CA law is considered a pedestrian, NOT a vehicle.

    2. If the roads in the community are maintained by the CA DoT then the community must abide by the CA DoT regulations as to the use of the roads and sidewalks (which are considered public property, btw).

    3. If the roads aren’t maintained by DoT then the community may (emphasis on may) be able to set standards but must abide my Federal regulations (the ADA is but one example).

    All that being said the HOA may not know the benefits of the Segway and may be responding to one or more “complaints” regarding its use. Richard should first try to talk to the managing members and explain the benefits and his reasoning / need to use it. A little discussion goes a long way, something it seems that the HOA has yet to learn.

    SJ

  8. Joe

    I can’t defend a Segway since it takes the place of walking, skateboarding, and/or biking–all greener choices. However, this community sounds a bit oppressive.

    (a segway to the Slingshot)

    Segway inventor Dean Kamen does have an amazing invention in the works though–The Slingshot, which advertises the ability to purify ANY liquid. Unlike the Segway, this invention could change the world!

  9. Kevin

    As a segway rider, not owner (can’t afford one) but I do borrow one from a friend now and then (I have MS and walking more than 300 feet really wears me out).

    I took a suggestion from a friend and PRINTED the California law in question that defines what an EPAMD is and put it in a little binder that I took with me on the segway.

    I decided to check out one of the nicer parks and was riding around the park for about 15 minutes, when a uniformed park ranger (no weapon) on a bike catches up to me after riding like an idiot almost flatting a girl on her rollerblades and tells me I cannot ride my segway here!!

    I ask why and he like all other idiots, points at the sign that says no motorized vehicles allowed… I say ya I know, but it’s not a motorized vehicle. He cuts me off and starts spewing ordnance code to me and I say wait a minute that’s fine but this is NOT a motorized vehicle, the DMV and the State of California recognize it as an EPAMD and as such your telling me I can’t ride a WHEELCHAIR on this bike path?

    He tells me I’m wrong and I need to get OFF the segway and walk it back to my car or he will site me. At this point I’m thinking is this guy that stupid? But I decide to be nice and ask if has he seen the California codes which cover a segway because I have them with me if he wants to see them.

    Apparently he decided that was me disrespecting him somehow so he calls for backup and THROWS down his bike and stands there looking like he’s going to tackle me.

    All of 10 seconds later a police cruiser under lights DRIVES up (we’re ON the bike path) to where we’re standing (by this time I was already off my segway) and the cop says put your hands where I can see them as he gets out.

    The cop tells me to come over to where he is, and makes me put my hands on the car and asks me for my ID and all the usual cop stuff, then asks me to sit there and goes and talks to the ranger.

    He comes back to where I’m at and says well the ranger says you were disobeying a direct order and wants you cited, what’s your story? So I explain the entire argument to the cop (a real ranger with a gun, ie sworn badged cop vs the wannabe ranger on a bike, they had totally different uniforms) about how he was telling me no motorized vehicles were allowed and how I tried to explain I was disabled and according to state law, a segway does not qualify for motorized vehicle status and the ranger wouldn’t listen then freaked out when I asked if he wanted to see a copy of the state law…

    The cop at this point looks at me, looks at the segway and then the ranger… Says, ok lets see what you have. So I get it and hand it to the cop, he reads it. He pulled out his cell phone and relayed the whole story to someone else, listens for a few seconds then hangs up and tells me well you are right, and legally we cannot site you for riding it here, but unfortunately as a park ranger, he CAN ask you to leave and has done so… So you will need to leave for today.

    So in the end, the cop told the ranger to learn your laws better, I got to RIDE my segway back to my car, but had to leave the park for the day or get cited for not leaving.

    Would a handicap sign on the segway made a difference? I don’t know… but I’m sure it might have helped with public support… It wasn’t until the cop told the ranger that he wasn’t going to do anything to me and for me to ride it back to my car that people stopped gawking at the guy on the segway getting “arrested”.

    Kev

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