Recall Sidetracks Segway Scooters

President Bush, center, momentarily loses his balance while riding a Segway personal transporter, as first lady Laura Bush, left, looks on in front of former President George Bush's house, in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday, June 12, 2003.
The maker of the Segway Human Transporter has agreed to recall the motorized scooters because riders have been injured falling off when its batteries are low.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall Friday, saying that three people had been injured. One suffered a head wound and needed stitches.

"Under certain operating conditions, particularly when the batteries are near the end of charge, some Segway HTs may not deliver enough power, allowing the rider to fall," the CPSC warned. "This can happen if the rider speeds up abruptly, encounters an obstacle, or continues to ride after receiving a low-battery alert."

The Manchester, N.H.-based company has sold about 6,000 of the scooters so far. The recall involves all Segway HT i167 ("i Series") models sold to consumers. Two models sold in test markets — the e167 and p133 models — are also being recalled. Customers can call 877-889-9020 for information on getting a free upgrade.

"Riders are reminded that, even after the software upgrade, appropriate operating techniques as described in Segway HT user materials are essential to safety," the CPSC warned.

In June, President Bush fell off a Segway he was trying to ride.

The scooter was introduced amid great hype by inventor Dean Kamen, who has claimed his machine will transform the way people live and work just as surely as the automobile did when it replaced the horse and buggy.

The quiet, single-person vehicles are battery-powered, with computers and gyroscopes that allow riders to negotiate curbs and ruts. Tests of a heavy-duty version are under way at factories, resorts and among government employees like postal workers and police officers.

The manufacturer waged a lobbying campaign at statehouses around the country, winning over lawmakers who see the Segway as a remarkable tool to ease congestion and more.

Up until recently, all but three states barred motorized vehicles from sidewalks.

Now the path is clearer. Twenty-four states, including Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin, have enacted Segway's proposals into law with surprising speed over the past six months. Legislation in four more states is awaiting governors' signatures.

Even before it was unveiled, there were worries among doctors and others who fear pedestrians will get hurt by the two-wheeled, 69-pound Segways as the machines zip around at up to 12.5 mph.