Segway tour operator says he’ll defy potential Greenway ban

By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / March 24, 2010

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The saga of Segways in the North End took a twist yesterday when a defiant sightseeing entrepreneur vowed to continue to send rolling tourists onto the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway — even after being told to stop.

At the contentious conclusion to a City Council hearing, the tour operator, Allan Danley, rebuffed a request by the director of the Greenway to keep Segways out of the parks because of a prohibition against vehicles. That prompted Councilor Salvatore LaMattina to ask Danley whether he planned to stop.

“I’m not going to say yes or no right now,’’ Danley said. “Sal, what I am going to do is go back to my office, I’m going to speak to my attorney, and then I’ll provide an answer to this council.’’

The second-in-command of the Boston Police Department jumped in and answered for him.

“Councilor LaMattina, I can tell you that if the vehicles are in violation of park rules and regulations, we will conduct enforcement,’’ Superintendent in Chief Daniel P. Linskey said.

Enforcement could mean citations, Linskey said, for tour operators willfully violating park rules. In an extreme case, it could potentially lead to an arrest for trespassing.

Outside the hearing, Danley hardened his stance when asked whether he planned to stay off the Greenway.

“No, we’re not,’’ Danley said, adding that if Linskey’s officers start arresting tour operators or handing out tickets, “then he’ll get sued.’’

Danley operates Boston Gliders, which has clashed with its North End neighbors on Commercial Street. Critics complain that the company sends inexperienced Segway drivers barreling down narrow sidewalks on the upright two-wheeled devices.

Boston Gliders maintains that it operates safely. Last year, the company ran more than 8,000 Segway tours in Boston without a single crash or serious injury, Danley said.

The City Council called for yesterday’s hearing to discuss adopting regulations for Segways, which are not addressed by state or local law. That means there is no guidance about whether the machines should be used on streets or sidewalks.

Of all the people who testified at the hearing, only one came on a Segway and he was not a tourist. Paul Widmark, 41, leaned on crutches at the microphone because he broke his neck as a 15-year-old when he dove into shallow water. Widmark described being liberated when he discovered Segways.

“They really have changed my life,’’ he said.