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Banff council slams brakes on Segway proposal

“We absolutely can’t put these things on the roads with the vehicular traffic we have, let alone road conditions," said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen of a proposal to run Segway tours in the busy tourist town.
Banff town council turned down a pitch by Canada West Segway to run commercial tours and trial an e-scooter community share program in the busy tourist town. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – Banff’s politicians slammed the brakes on a Segway company’s proposal to run guided tours in the tourist town.

At a meeting Tuesday (Nov. 12), council turned down Canada West Segway’s pitch to run a commercial Segway tour and trial an e-scooter community share program because Banff’s streets and trails are already crowded and congested.

“I just don’t see in this scenario, or any scenario, where this equipment could safely go,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen.

“We absolutely can’t put these things on the roads with the vehicular traffic we have, let alone road conditions,” she added, noting having Segways on the busy bridge across the Bow River would add to traffic troubles.

“In my mind, the pedestrian bridge isn’t an option, the road isn’t an option, and the sidewalk isn’t an option …  just because of crowds.”

Canada West Segway have been providing guided tours on the two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporters in Edmonton for 11 years and in Calgary for six years.

Chris Szydlowski, of Canada West Segway, said the company would work with a key hotel partner to use as a launching area to stage, charge and train guests for a Segway tour in Banff.

“We will also work with the Town of Banff and Parks Canada to develop a safe acceptable route for this Segway guided tour,” he said in his written pitch to council.

The second part of Szydlowski’s pitch was about an e-scooter community share program as part of a pilot project.

He said he wants to work with the municipality to come up with an acceptable area where riders can and cannot go.

“We will work with community partners to ensure our scooters are picked up and dropped off only at key community partner locations,” said Szydlowski.

“This can be done with a limited number of scooters in a very limited area. It can also be expanded very quickly to include the Legacy trail and access to other key attractions.”

In 2009, Szydlowski made a similar pitch in Banff, but Parks Canada’s regulatory restrictions deterred him from pursuing the project in the tourist town.

“We diverted our attention towards expansion in Calgary and business development at existing locations,” he said.

Randall McKay, Banff’s interim town manager, said he doesn’t believe much has changed.

“It’s not surprising that Parks Canada struggled with the commercial cap piece and commercial use of public space both inside the townsite and outside because what happens here can be used as a precedent for other national parks,” he said.

“I know from my past dealings with Parks Canada, they take a very careful precautionary approach to that, and to the best of my knowledge those issues are unresolved.”

Tony Clark, the Town of Banff’s manager of municipal enforcement, also raised concerns about enforcement.

“I think the enforcement piece would be very hard to do,” he said, adding he prefers to look at enforcement issues before even considering a potential bylaw change to allow Segways.

“I think it would be a nightmarish thing … the bylaw officers running after somebody on a Segway.”

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