PRAGUE (Reuters) - Prague city officials want to crack down on what they see as a dangerous proliferation of two-wheeled Segway vehicles clogging the city's historic streets and sidewalks.
A visit to the city's Old Town Square highlights how Segway tours have mushroomed over the past few years as dozens of guides buzz around, weaving around tourists as they hunt for customers.
"I came here six years ago and there were no Segways," one tour guide said while standing on his vehicle. "Now they are everywhere."
A Segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle that uses gyroscopes to remain upright. Drivers stand on a small platform and control the vehicles by leaning in different directions.
The vehicles garnered global headlines when a Segway-riding cameraman sent the world's fastest man Usain Bolt tumbling at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing in August.
Prague officials say the vehicles are no laughing matter and worry it's only a matter of time before a serious accident occurs - spurring a push to ban the vehicles from sidewalks, pedestrian areas and popular tourist spots.
"I understand Segways are part of technical advances and laws can't limit such developments," city council member Jan Korseska said. "Nevertheless it seems to me we have to enact a law so Segways aren't classified as pedestrians anymore."
"I do not like Segways because they aren't safe for pedestrians."
Lack of regulation and Prague’s compact historical center make the city ideal for Segway tours as they can reach most of the popular tourist sights.
The proposed rules would cover more streets in the most heavily visited areas in the historic center. Officials are also seeking to regulate Segways like bikes to keep them off sidewalks.
While a few scattered Segway bans exist around town, city officials and residents agree further restrictions and a more cohesive approach are needed.
"It happened to me and my children, that we had to jump out of the way of Segways," said Zuzana Zemanová, who lives in the city center.
"Segways are hefty and unpredictable and because I
have two children, I think Segways are dangerous as well because they are often driving on sidewalks."
A 30-minute guided Segway costs around 30 euros ($33). Tour operators say they adhere to a voluntary set of safety guidelines that include mandatory helmets and guides for all excursions.
Writing by Michael Kahn; Editing by Michael Roddy