Business Transportation

Superior Court Supports City’s Segway Tour Ordinance; “Boston by Segway” May Close and File for Bankruptcy

A Superior Court judge denied a preliminary injunction requested by Boston by Segway (BBS) against a 2011 City of Boston ordinance that regulates Segway tours in the city. The ordinance was championed by District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina (North End, Charlestown, East Boston) in response to complaints about the safety issues related to Segways tours on sidewalks and some crowded or narrow streets. Boston by Segway is located at 420 Commercial Street in Boston’s North End and is the only company that offers Segway tours in Boston.

LaMattina’s Segway tour ordinance, passed by the Boston City Council and signed by Mayor Menino in June 2011, required Segway tours to be licensed by Boston Police (BPD) Hackney Division. It also prohibited tours on sidewalks, instead allowing them on streets (including bike lanes) using routes approved by the Boston Department of Transportation.

According to the court order, Boston by Segway submitted routes and applied for a license, but was never granted permission to operate in Boston. The tour company continued to operate without any licenses or approved routes until April 10, 2013 when Boston Police forcibly shut down the business.

BBS filed this lawsuit on May 7, 2013 arguing that the City of Boston “exceeded its authority under the Home Rule Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution in vesting the BPD Hackney Division with the authority to license and regulate companies providing Segway tours.”

After the May 2013 legal filing, BBS was granted 53 licenses to operate and a “one-hour” route was approved. The City and BBS were never able to agree on a “two-hour” tour route.

In the court document, “Segway maintains that absent an injunction, it will be forced to file for bankruptcy and close its business down.”

Superior Court Judge Troy issued a 9-page ruling denying the injunction, concluding:

The court is mindful of the frustration BBS has experienced in its attempts to operate within the Ordinance’s restrictions as well as the financial toll that the City’s licensing and route approval process has taken on the company’s business. Indeed, the court believes that Segway tours likely provide a great benefit to Boston and encourages the City to work in good faith to quickly approve more routes for BBS. Nevertheless, … BBS has failed to show that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its complaint as it appears that the City was free to grant licensing authority for Segways to the Police Commissioner.

Read the Superior Court Order (pdf).

6 Replies to “Superior Court Supports City’s Segway Tour Ordinance; “Boston by Segway” May Close and File for Bankruptcy

  1. Glad they’re off the sidewalks, but still a lot of near misses. I cringe when I see them go by, esp the obvious 1st timers. I say a prayer they’ll make it home safely.

  2. My problem with this is the way the city handled the whole process. The city made them apply for a license and routes in 2011, and then sat around doing nothing about their application for 2 years until they had the police shut them down and the company had to file a lawsuit to get their application reviewed. It seems like the city just wanted to force them to bow down and beg before they would do anything.

  3. The last 4 weeks I have to say, seem to be the most interesting 28 days. In the last 28 days we have had 3 routes approved 51 Segway licenses issued, and we now have the only (5) Tour guide licenses in the city of Boston. We are the only company in the city of Boston required to have an indoor facility. Provide a safety video, and training. Be licensed and Insured. Group size controlled, and speed of 8 MPH so every driver in Boston can complain and honk at us because we are holding up traffic. Imagine when Hackney showed up on April 10 they wanted to give us 18 licenses knowing that we had 65 Segway’s.

    Now to point out a few facts if I may,
    Urban Adventours trains their customers in Christopher Columbus Park, has no restrictions on size or speed, no requirements for background checks or do they need an actual drivers license to provide Bike Tours. The reason I say this is now all Segway Tour guides have to have a background check, and have a valid drivers license to receive a Tour Guide license. The best is they perform work on bikes out on the sidewalk, park bikes blocking the entire sidewalk and yet no one complains or do they? Would you be surprised to know that over 200 complaints have been filed with the city of Boston in 2013 alone? How about complaints of blocking sidewalks? putting illegal signs on the sidewalk? Yes a total of 441 complaints. Has anything been done? No, why? the mayor of Boston likes bikes.

    How about Hubway? are they required to provide training? no. Rules of the road that ensure driving properly? No. Be held accountable when riders don’t, with fines? No. What about a safe training area? No. Helmets? Insurance? Using public space? Using the road, or the entire sidewalk? However BTD and DPW seem to think their is no public safety issue.

    How about BTD refusing to approve public streets for Segway use. Half of the issue now just comes down to the city of Boston, BTD, and Hackney trying to continue to come up with ways to stall, block, or burry the approval process. Why are streets, I mean slow moving traffic streets unsafe for Segway’s? Like Salem St. why? Yet they want to approve Bowdoin St. Imagine the safety risk going down that hill?

    There is a clear and direct issue of discrimination, and bad faith in the actions from the city of Boston. We will continue to seek relief from the court system. I have to believe that a city can not just strip away right of the public, and create a clear level of trade restriction, and discrimination.

    Although I know many will read this and think oh it’s the wow is me, or us. I assure you it is not. It is more so the one sided story stops. Im shocked that sites like the North End Waterfront continue to only report negative stories about Segway’s I have yet to see them show up and say wow you brought 2,000 people to the neighborhood this week. That ate in our restaurants, shopped in local shops and purchased goods here.

    So I leave you with (1) question, what if we did move to another neighborhood. The Segway Tours would still come to the North End. We would still sue the city and in the end I have to believe win. The only difference is, instead of people coming and getting coffee before tours, shopping after tours, or eating in local restaurants. They will simply do all that where we are located. You know the tourists, the 50,000 people that Segway Tours booked in 2014 already.

    The best is we submitted actual reports to the superior court that showed reservations in the system booking by 3rd party vendors into 2014. I hope others in the North End that have come to rely on the foot traffic we bring to the neighborhood every day understand how this will ultimately impact their business.

    1. Al, thanks for sharing the struggles they’ve put you through. In reading the article it seemed like they were trying to kill your business by making it too tough to go through the process, and your response confirms this. Please keep up the good fight, and good luck in the courts.

  4. I find the city imposes its will based on what the leadership thinks is best. Or to respond to the outcry of small groups of residents. I am surprised we have any interesting or attractive small businesses in this city, there are so many regulations. And the ones that stand their ground or push back get more regulations.

    I find the Segway riders quite tame compared to bike riders in this city. If I had a dime for every biker that I saw breaking traffic laws… Just yesterday, on the corner of Commercial and Battery, I had a near miss with a bike commuter who decided to run a red light and well after the light had changed. I was walking and waited my turn for the walk sign. This has been a problem for years, now the city made it worse with the bike lanes. Many bike riders don’t even bother yielding or following traffic courtesy and rules of the road.

    Where’s the enforcement of traffic laws for bicycle riders? My guess is they will start being enforced the first time a Senior is hurt.

    1. I think you’re erroneously conflating bad bikers with the introduction of new bike lanes. New bike lanes provide a safe way for folks to commute who do not have the space or capability to own a car. It’s not exactly shocking there are bad bikers; at least once a week I’m nearly hit by an insane biker or driver. It’s not a problem with the vehicle, it’s the bad people in control.

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